Signs signalling transgender people are welcome to use the washroom facilities of their choice went up at Alberni District Secondary School in late October. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

EDITORIAL: School washrooms are no place for fear

This is about access for people who need to use the facilities…

What do you do when you feel the need to go to the bathroom?

If you’re like the majority of Port Alberni’s population, you find a bathroom, go in, do your business and come out—you probably don’t think too much about it.

For a small portion of the population, though, there isn’t an easy answer.

Last week School District 70 made it a bit easier for students at Alberni District Secondary School who are transgender to find an answer. As of Oct. 22, the school has labeled all its washroom facilities as “trans welcome”. That means students who are transgender may use the washrooms and changerooms of their choice.

Trans students have had the option for just over a year of using three gender-neutral washrooms without having to ask for a key—one in the sick room, one in the staff room and the family bathroom on the lower floor. Anyone can use these washrooms, however, so the wait can be extended to get in there.

The new policy and new “trans welcome” signs aren’t about people taking advantage of gender identity so they can enter whatever washroom they want to. That kind of behaviour won’t be condoned, and will be punished, SD70 superintendent Greg Smyth has said.

This is about access for people who need to use the facilities. It’s about the right to access those facilities. Gender identity and gender expression are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It’s about feeling safe when you have to go. And it’s about the right to go to the washroom whenever you need to.

If you find this issue uncomfortable, imagine going six, eight, 10 hours without using the toilet when you’ve really got to go.

That’s beyond discomfort, it’s fear. And fear has no place in our school district’s bathrooms.

— Alberni Valley News

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