Physical Education Dept. provides third locker room for transgender students

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A student approaches “locker room 3”

Gigi Wade, News Reporter

For years, transgender students had no choice but to change in the locker room that corresponded with their biological sex, but the creation of a third locker room has changed that.

Students that do not identify with their assigned gender at birth, or those that don’t fit within the two-gender binary, are given the option to change in “locker room #3.” This locker room is located in the physical education wing, in place of the changing room for female staff.

“The quality has improved, it used to be in the back of my office,” Physical Education Dept. Chair Theresa Patterson said. “Now there are private lockers, changing areas and bathrooms.”

If students want to request access to use locker room #3 during their P.E. period, they must visit Ms. Patterson in G115 and explain the reason behind their request. Nobody has ever been turned away from the locker room, but if more students were to express interest in using it, the changing area may overcrowd.

“There is limited space in the locker room, it’s used every period,” Patterson said.

Students have voiced their opinion about locker rooms, arguing that the school should not have the right to make students use spaces that make them feel like they have to conform to a different gender identity than their own.

“Students should be able to use the locker room that they identify with,” junior Katie Bezaitis said. “If they can choose which bathroom to use, there shouldn’t be a difference with locker rooms.”

Many have complained about the lack of policy to dictate regulations surrounding transgender students, contending that an isolated locker room is not a good substitute for a formal code. While some in administration are working to create a policy, it is not seen as a priority.

“Policy takes time,” Patterson said. “Evanston is focused on meeting our student’s needs, that’s the most important thing.”

Locker room #3 is classified by the school committee as a temporary solution. Patterson, along with other members of the committee, are working to create the best situation.

Transgender students who use the locker room believe there are departmental oversights in terms of providing adequate spaces to meet their needs, due to the fact that locker room #3 is used by multiple genders.

“People don’t have a problem with the sexes mixing in locker room #3 like they do in the other two locker rooms,” junior AJ Badr said.

The creation of locker room has created discourse among students, teachers and administration alike; the controversy has helped to foster an important conversation about the best method of action for the committee to take.

Discussion about the evolution of creating locker rooms that make all students feel comfortable is not limited to Evanston. Nationally, the federal government is taking steps to enact policies with the goal of protecting the rights and welfare of transgender students. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Obama administration mandated that public schools must allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity.

The development of locker room #3 is a step in the right direction to meet the Obama administration’s goals, but students say that for transgender students to feel truly comfortable, something more needs to change.