Bathrooms Without Borders

The fight for gender neutral bathrooms continues.


For years now, student activists have struggled to implement gender neutral bathrooms at Garfield. However, now that it is officially Seattle Public School law, Garfield will finally construct their own.

“It seems like each year a different obstacle has gotten in the way,” said Teen Health Center counselor Rosie Moore. “It seems like since some other schools have been successful, there has been an extra push for them this year.”

Garfield has one of the first and largest Gay Straight Alliance clubs in Seattle, yet it has still taken all these years to finally get the bathrooms.

“Usually people working on the projects start towards the end of the year and then either graduate or move on,” said Moore. “There’s all sorts of issues like where it would be located, whether it’s multiple or single stalls, funding for how to make them private, just a variety of different things.”

Each of these obstacles take time and effort to surpass, making this a very long process.

“The district has have a pending order, so if [another school] is in front of us, let’s say Ingraham, they push us back, and I just don’t know how they decide who goes first,” said
Principal Ted Howard. “The requests are in for all ten schools so the district makes that determination.”

Switching a bathroom from individual male and female rooms to gender neutral may seem very straightforward, but there are many legal privacy concerns that must be addressed.

“Originally, we wanted to change the signs on all of the bathrooms so they say gender neutral, but with such a big shift both physically and mentally for the school, we decided we need to do it little by little,” said senior and GSA public relations officer Lena Fox.

In order to eliminate as much controversy as possible, they made a mutual decision to only implement one gender neutral bathroom.

“We held a meeting where it was talked about a site of the bathroom that would be plausible, which was decided to be the women’s bathroom on the first floor by the cafeteria,” said Moore.

In order for that to be passed by the district, there are certain necessary renovations.

“The district wants us to put privacy flaps to cover the cracks of the stalls,” said Fox.

Moore added: “There’s five stalls in that bathroom and the quote that our lawyer got from the district is 300$ per door.”

Although it is district policy to have gender neutral bathrooms, each school must come up with the funding themselves.

“The GSA was looking at different ways to come up with this money, and so I emailed the PTSA and they were willing to fund the 1,500 dollars,” said Moore. Now it’s just trying to get the funds into the Garfield account, and when that happens we can put in a work order.”

Now that Garfield has the construction plans and funding, the next hurdle is the implementation itself.

“I’m hoping the construction will take place over summer, it’s really not that labor intensive, but there’s always issues that could come up. Hopefully it’ll be by next school year,” said Moore.

“It might not happen this year, but I’m really dedicated to this issue so even after I graduate I’m going to follow up with it and make sure this happens,” said Fox.

Gender neutral bathrooms may be district policy now, but that does not guarantee that there won’t be backlash from parents and students.

“I think everyone will have questions, so what I’ve said to our public is that if we’re going to do this, we need to have an educational component around it now, ahead of time, instead of waiting until it actually happens,” said Howard. “So I put that in GSA’s lap.”

GSA has been holding freshman forums for years now, ensuring that every student at Garfield has a basic knowledge surrounding LGBTQ issues.

“If people have an issue using a bathroom with mixed genders, they can use the nurse’s room, which is what people who don’t feel comfortable now have been using for decades,” said Fox. “If you feel uncomfortable using a bathroom with someone that isn’t your gender, that’s how non-binary gender have been feeling for years, it’s not something new.”

This may not affect the majority of students at Garfield High school, but it makes a big difference to those whom it does.

“We want to make Garfield an inclusive place to everyone. We aren’t making people feel welcome if we continue the way we are. It’s about being what Mr. Howard promoted so hard, ‘One Garfield,’ being accessible to everyone,” said Fox. “When people walk into our building, [gender neutral bathrooms] are a physical mark that says we accept you no matter what.”