BHS supports transgender students but still has work to do

A+map+of+the+gender-inclusive+bathrooms+at+BHS.+Detailed+directions+can+be+found+at+sites.google.com%2Fpsbma.org%2Fbhs-trans-week-of-awareness%2Fresources%2Frestrooms.

A map of the gender-inclusive bathrooms at BHS. Detailed directions can be found at sites.google.com/psbma.org/bhs-trans-week-of-awareness/resources/restrooms.

See this link for important definitions used in this article.

The high school likes to think of itself as an inclusive place for transgender students. Although that is generally the case, there are many problems to be addressed.

Imagine it’s a normal day in class. You’re half-listening, half-thinking about your after-school plans when you realize that you need to use the bathroom. If you’re cisgender and gender-conforming, this probably doesn’t sound like that much of a problem. You walk 20 meters and are at an unlocked bathroom, and, on the very low chance that a stall isn’t open, there is another bathroom you can use not far away.

For transgender or gender-nonconforming students, difficulties abound. Even binary trans students may not be able to pass well enough to feel comfortable or safe using the binary restrooms. There are very few gender-inclusive bathrooms at the high school, so students have to walk far to get to the nearest one.

For example, a student taking a class on the third floor of Old Lincoln School would have to walk all the way down to the basement, where the bathroom has only one stall with a working lock, and then they’d have to walk all the way back up to their class.

At the 115 Greenough St. building, the main second-floor gender-inclusive restroom is often closed for cleaning towards the end of the day, leaving one gender-inclusive restroom on that floor. However, it is inside the auditorium: a space often used as a classroom.

“The fact that students wanting to use gender-inclusive restrooms have to spend an additional five to ten minutes (walking from their classroom to the bathroom and back) outside of class just to use the bathroom quickly is unacceptable and is an injustice to students trying to receive a solid education,” said Oliver Slayton, one of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) facilitators and a genderqueer senior.

Other complaints about the gender-neutral restrooms include their uncleanliness; incorrect, confusing or missing signage; the fact the doors are often locked and the lack of stalls.

Additionally, Mir Stojanov, a GSA facilitator and nonbinary transmasculine junior, says cisgender students use gender-inclusive bathrooms as a place to hangout, which takes up an already limited space.

“The gender-neutral bathroom is not your hangout space. It’s literally the only place I can pee comfortably within the floor,” he said.

Slayton says that some administrators and teachers treat students who need gender-inclusive restrooms as an inconvenience.

“That can make it feel like Brookline isn’t interested in the problems that their trans students face,” they said.

There are other ways the high school can show it cares about its transgender students.

“It should be clarified a lot of times where a trans student should put their dead name versus their real name,” said Stojanov. For example, he was unsure what to put on his student ID.

Similarly, it should be clarified when sex is being asked for and when gender is being asked for. While taking the PSAT, Stojanov was asked for his gender with the warning that it would be used for identification purposes. He had to choose between answering with his gender or his sex, which is listed on his legal documents, not knowing which was the “correct” answer.

Adding clarification for similar problems that arise at the high school would be an simple way to make the lives of transgender students a lot easier.

Canvas could also be improved to allow for multiple sets of pronouns.

“For example, my pronouns are he/they,” Stojanov said. “I can only choose one.”

Teachers, although generally accepting, will sometimes make a big deal about pronouns or refuse to correct their language: for example, continuing to use “ladies” to refer to Stojanov even after he asks them to stop.

Generally, the “job is kind of on the students” to use the correct name and pronouns, says sophomore Jacklyn “JT” Thibodeau, a transgender girl. In general, she says, the school needs to provide more education for students.

Both Stojanov and Thibodeau expressed annoyance at continuing to be viewed as the sex they were assigned at birth.

“It’s clear that people sometimes just remember your pronouns and don’t actually view you as how you identify, and that kind of sucks,” said Stojanov.

Thibodeau was demeaningly asked what she was wearing when she wore a skirt on picture day because many students percieve her as a cisgender boy.

“Mind your business, I can literally wear whatever I want,” she said later.

Despite challenges, students such as Slayton say they generally feel accepted by their teachers and classmates.

“I had direct support from staff members around my pronouns and around adjusting some of their curricula to be more inclusive of trans people,” Slayton said. For example, they enjoyed looking at the queer side of things in their Literature of Love class.

Stojanov says that despite the fact that they sometimes get asked uncomfortable questions, their peers almost always remember to use the correct pronouns, and the majority of teachers have good intentions even if they do mess up.

They also provided specific examples of teachers supporting them. One day, they accidentally entered the Zoom class of a teacher they were not out to with their Zoom name set to their real name and pronouns. The teacher, noticing, asked through a private message if they wanted to make an announcement or not.

Stojanov says that another adult at the high school who helped support them in their transition was their guidance counselor and that students looking to transition should look to their guidance counselor as a first step. They can help students find a place to start by changing their name and pronouns in the school system.

Stojanov also suggests emailing teachers to inform them of new names and pronouns, as well as reaching out by email to teachers if they repeatedly misgender you or are a hassle about you being trans, as this leaves proof that you have tried talking to them.

Thibodeau advises students to just go for it.

“It is your teachers’ job to be accepting of you no matter what,” she said. “If there are any problems then definitely talk to someone about it.”

She also recommends making transgender friends, who may be more understanding than cisgender teachers.

“It is important to recognize that just because you are facing different challenges or more challenges , it doesn’t mean that it’s your fault,” Slayton reminds.

They also emphasize that students must speak their minds to get your needs met.

“Your most important skill as a person of a minority is your advocacy skills,” they said.

Although following a checklist of advice is not guaranteed to make one’s transition completely smooth, Stojanov reminds students, however cliché it may sound, to be yourselves and remember that the GSA is always there for you.