Like what you're reading?

We make it easy to stay connected:

to our email newsletters
Download our free apps

I.C. West student looks at gender equity in bathrooms

HS journalism: Taylor Shelfo advocates for justice

  • Photo
By Taylor Shelfo, I.C. West junior

IOWA CITY — We all know Caitlyn Jenner.

Born Bruce Jenner, an Olympian married to Kris Jenner, who came out as transgender in 2015. What we don’t know is what bathroom she uses in public. Yes, she has the genitalia of a male, but she has the appearance of and identifies as a female. In fact, Page Six found most doctors recommend transgender people keep their initial parts for a year after their transition.

So, which bathroom does she use?

I’m asking this because it seems more people are coming out as who they really are, making the number of transgender and gay people rise. An organization called “Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays” (PFLAG NYC) found four to 10 percent of the U.S. population is LGBT+. So, in a public school system of 1 million students, 40,000 to 100,000 of them are LGBT+. With numbers growing, how do we handle the topic of transgender people in restrooms?

Some may say unisex bathrooms is the answer. It provides a gender neutral area for everyone. According to Christine Lagorio of the New York Times, Berkeley, Green Mountain College in Vermont, and MIT not only have coed dorms, but coed bathrooms as well. Some students and their parents find the unisex bathrooms awkward or unsafe, while others believe it’s a great way to endorse gender neutrality and keep stalls in bathrooms to cover everyone.

As a young woman, I would feel uncomfortable using the restroom with a guy, mainly because I was never exposed to unisex bathrooms while growing up. In today’s society, there’s also the threat of violence.

So, I am not advocating for unisex bathrooms, but for justice for transgender people. Whether or not your genitalia matches the bathroom sign, it’s about who you believe you are. Therefore, if you were born a male but you walk around school in dresses and makeup, then you have every right to use the women’s bathroom. It is unfair that if your body parts don’t match the bathroom you want to use, you’re forced to use the opposite. Passers-by cannot tell what is underneath someone’s clothing by looking at them, so who cares what bathroom they use?

In 2013, California passed a law allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice regardless of given genitalia. When news hit Colorado, Katherine Svenson, a Delta County school board member, organized a meeting to emphasize that law will not happen in this particular school district. “Not until the plumbing’s changed,” she said. “There would have to be a castration (surgical change of genitalia) in order to pass something like that around here.”

As a teenager, who has the money for such a process? Principally in today’s public school system, it’s hard enough coming out to society, and now they can’t even use the bathroom they want without paying $2,200-$5,000 to have the desired body parts.

Click here for news from Iowa City West student journalists.

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.
Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.