Illustration by Olivia Abeyta
Evanston Township High School has altered two single-gender restrooms to serve as all-gender restrooms, a move some students say is emblematic of progress for the school’s LGBTQ+ population.
ETHS upgraded the facilities at the beginning of this school year, according to assistant superintendent and principal Taya Kinzie. The two new restrooms are located in a “central area of the building,” and bathroom stalls have been adapted for privacy, Kinzie said.
According to a 2019 op-ed in The Evanstonian, ETHS’ student newspaper, limited accessibility to gender-neutral bathrooms has been a concern among LGBTQ+ students for several years.
Last year, sophomore Jexa Edinberg, who is nonbinary, started a petition on Change.org called “More Gender Neutral Bathrooms at ETHS.” They said they faced difficulties using the bathroom between classes due to the inconvenient locations of and long wait lines at existing gender-neutral restrooms.
The petition accrued nearly 400 signatures.
Edinberg said they don’t feel like the petition influenced the recent change. Though they feel the school could do more, they said the new bathrooms still make them hopeful for the future.
“Someday, I would like to see all bathrooms being gender neutral,” Edinberg said.
The newly-modified facilities are located in the east wing of the first floor, but unlike the other gender-neutral restrooms, they have multiple stalls and do not require an access code. Access codes were originally implemented for increased privacy, according to Kinzie.
ETHS junior Onyx Condon said although they are happy the school added additional gender-neutral bathrooms, it should have happened sooner.
“It’s ridiculous that it took them that long to do that,” Condon, who is transgender, said. “(Being) Trans, non-binary, and (having) gender-neutral bathrooms in general, isn’t a new concept to the world.”
Amelia Anderson, a junior at ETHS who identifies as LGBTQ, said they were caught by surprise the first time they used one of the modified facilities.
Anderson said they were confused as to why their stall didn’t have a sanitary dispensary bin and why there was a male-presenting student in the stall adjacent. They were unaware until they exited and noticed the sign denoting it was open to all genders.
Anderson said they don’t mind being in a restroom with people of various gender identities, but they are not used to it.
Prior to the changes, Anderson said they primarily used the women’s restrooms because they were much easier to find. However, now that they know about the new restrooms, they said they will use them more frequently.
“It’s good to have all-gender bathrooms,” Anderson said. “There is some kind of importance, and there’s a reason why most gender-neutral bathrooms are single ones.”
According to the ETHS website, students seeking increased privacy can receive access codes to the private gender-neutral restrooms by filling out a Student Advocacy Form. Parental consent is not required.
Condon said he prefers the multi-stalled gender-neutral restrooms because he found it difficult to obtain access codes to the private facilities. It took him over six months to get the codes, he said, and he has friends who received codes that don’t work.
Due to a disability that makes it hard to walk, Condon said they hope the school will continue to provide gender-neutral restrooms on every floor.
He added it would be better if the school added more stalled gender-neutral restrooms to avoid crowding and lines, but any progress would be beneficial.
“We’ve gotten so used to just having to deal with whatever we can get,” Condon said. “If we can get something, that’s good enough for right now.”
E-mail: [email protected]
— LGBTQ+ and non-binary students at ETHS push for more gender-neutral bathrooms
— Two ETHS seniors lead the push to make school a safer place for trans, gender non-conforming students
—‘You have to make a choice’: Non-cisgender students still struggle to find gender-affirming on-campus housing