A whole lot of schools are about to give back some serious federal dollars over a toilet or two. At issue is gender identity and whether schools should be required to have a gender-inclusive bathroom.   Federal dollars are tough to come by.  I know this because The Big Boss always says “there’s no money” when I ask for school supplies or when it’s time to hire. Anyone’d be crazy to flush federal money down the toilet.

Do you really want to argue about toilets?

SEND YOUR FEDERAL MONEY HERE!  We’ll get tech, fast wi-fi, and neighborhood hotspots for kids to use. Then, I’ll buy teachers unlimited supplies and personal assistants to cover classes so they can use bathrooms when they can’t find someone to watch their classes.

The Truth about Gender-Inclusive Bathrooms: You already have one.

The very same people arguing against gender inclusive bathrooms already have them at home.

When I ask to use someone’s bathroom, they say “sure” and point. They don’t say, “The woman’s bathroom is upstairs, second door on the left.”  I only have one bathroom in my house so this would be an issue. “Women’s room is there.  Men, outside, second tree on the left…behind the oak. Watch for the poison ivy.”

I’m the first person to use the men’s bathroom when a woman’s taking too long. There are individual ones guidance and at the coffee house.  I’m in and out in thirty seconds flat, so no man would ever have to wait.  And, I only have a couple minutes between classes. It’s a “now or never” thing in schools.

Once, in my prior career, I was at a conference, and I really had to go. I was inside the stall when I heard voices.  Men.

My millionth cups of coffee kept me from noticing blue decor and urinals.  I was stuck with a group of coworkers and other men from the session outside. There was no escape. I couldn’t open the stall door. What if I saw something unmentionable or discovered one of my colleagues wearing tighty whiteys?  I can’t unsee that. Can HR accuse me of harassing the men?  Will I end up on a milk carton, fired, or never be able to live it down?  Do men peek under stalls and notice people’s shoes like women do? How long do men stay in the bathroom? 

After about ten minutes, the sessions started again. The voices got quiet. I made a run for it and survived. The world didn’t end because I was in the john with the Johnsons.

A Note on Private Bathrooms and the Kids Who Might Use Them

Many students–gay, straight, transgendered–want bathroom privacy. They’ll ask for a pass to the nurse, refuse to shower after gym (it’s a big, open, room), or worse–go home because they need to use the bathroom. This happens on a daily basis. I had one (straight) girl absent every few days from my seventh period class until one of her friends told me she was going home to use the bathroom. She needed privacy so bad she nearly failed a couple classes.

All kids deserve the level of privacy they need, especially teens and tweens–no matter how they describe their gender. Adults, too.  I spent my career using “The People’s Pot” (the student bathroom).  It was closest to my room.  I’m not the Queen–I’m okay with a stall. But, I know adults who need privacy, too.

The thing about schools is the adults get the privacy they want. There are faculty bathrooms locked off from students.  Why the double standard? You shouldn’t need a birth certificate to flush a toilet. This is a very easy fix.  Take some single bathrooms and declare them… bathrooms. End of story.

Transgender students are in your classroom… and your kid’s class too.

I’ve been teaching for a while. Ten or fifteen years ago, it was difficult for kids to come out as gay, but when they did, nobody kept them from the bathroom. Today, there’s a lot more discussion about gender identity. I have all types of kids in my classes who aren’t ashamed to be who they are. There are straight kids, gay kids, questioning kids, and trans kids. I want kids feel comfortable no matter who they are. It’s a compliment to me, to my school, to their peers and to the community.

We’ve come a long way, but we’re not there yet. This toilet argument reminds me of that. But, it probably reminds a kid in need of acceptance even more. No matter where you sit on this issue–some people aren’t comfortable with this discussion and I respect that. The stats are the stats. 40% of homeless teens are homeless because they came out and were rejected. Suicide rates and depression rates among LGBTQ teens are significantly higher than their non-questioning and straight peers.  I’m not going to let a kid feel worse because of a bathroom.

This is a very easy fix.  First, change the signs on the door of at least one bathroom. Keep the rest “boys,” “girls,” and “faculty” if you want. Designate one of the private bathrooms formerly reserved for visitors or royalty as The Bathroom. Let anyone use it.

If you’re concerned about monitoring it for things like inappropriateness or smoking weed, know this–that happens in the regular bathroom. It’s not going to skyrocket because some kid got to poop in private.

As a bonus, put some curtains and stalls in the public shower area in the gym, especially for the guys. If you’ve ever taught high school freshmen after gym, you know this is a public emergency. You can use some of those federal dollars that are about to be taken away if you draw your line in the sand.

Then go about your day.  See what happens.

My guess?  Nothing.   People will use the bathroom, flush, and life will continue.  Parents visiting schools will take their opposite-gender kids with them to the lav, people who aren’t feeling well and need some privacy can have their space.  And yes, transgender students can pee.

Everyone’s request will be fulfilled.

Then, you can keep your federal money, and buy every teacher you see some something cool for their classroom, or better yet–stock that bathroom with two-ply toilet paper and a box of kleenex for when some kid cries over their bad grade.

Problem solved.


[Photo: uua.org]

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