A student-led initiative at Red Deer’s Hunting Hills High School has resulted in its first ‘All Gender Restroom.’
“Our school is full of amazing young people, amazing young people that are going to make a real difference,” says Principal Darwin Roscoe. “They’re thoughtful, insightful, reflective, forward thinking and positive young people that are such a great asset to society. I really believe that.”
Cameron Litowski, a grade 10 student and member of the school’s Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) says the idea for the all-gender restroom came about after some students expressed some concerns.
“They weren’t feeling comfortable in the bathroom that they were in, maybe because they were transitioning to another gender and their appearance looked different than how they felt on the inside,” he says. “That was what got some backlash from people inside the bathroom.”
Litowski says the 15-member QSA took their plan to administration, and they were greeted with open arms.
“Administration were more than supportive. Every member of administration were not only happy, but pleased to make sure everyone in our school felt safe” he says.
While Litowski feels it is “super important” to acknowledge that the idea is born out of the fight for Trans rights, he notes the restroom is for everyone.
“Every single person in our school should feel welcome to go into this restroom. It’s just a safe place if you’re not feeling like you want to be around other people. It’s just easy as that, there are no politics in it. It’s just a bathroom, it’s just to make other people safe and I don’t see any negative in that.”
Litowski says that when he came out as gay during his time at another central Alberta school, he was ridiculed. He says the new washroom sign proves Hunting Hills is an inclusive and safe place to be for anyone.
Grade 12 student Maddie Butler is a member of the school’s Senior Leadership class. She agrees that Hunting Hills is a place where everyone is respected.
“We have different groups and clubs that go along with different needs,” she points out. “You can be interested in anything and still be supported in our school. Our staff is extremely supportive of different and new clubs, just so that we can all feel accepted here, and safe.”
Butler adds a gender-neutral washroom is not something that someone should be threatened by.
“It’s really just there because in this day and age, people are transitioning and you know what, we should be open to new ideas and new concepts.”
It’s difficult to say whether the students’ plan would have come to fruition had the provincial government not introduced legislation a year ago which mandated school divisions to craft policies to protect LGBTQ rights. But Roscoe says it’s always been his job to support the kids in his building.
“They were respectful, thoughtful, they had thought out the whole process, thought out a vision, and it wasn’t just a kneejerk decision,” he says.
“It was their idea to call it a gender-neutral washroom versus just a washroom, which certainly would’ve been easier. But I wanted them to know that they’re valued members of our society, so when they brought that forward, I supported it.”
A similar initiative from their QSA led to Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School creating an all-gender washroom last year.
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