Gender Neutral Locker Room: The Newest Addition to the Gym Hallway

Gender Neutral Locker Room: The Newest Addition to the Gym Hallway

Sophie Halliburton, Contributing Writer

A major part of gym class protocol has always been the changing of clothes, before and after every class, in the locker rooms.

This aspect of P.E. is, for most students, awkward, at best, or dreadful, at its worst, and can be even more difficult for those who may feel uncomfortable with the binary options of girl’s and boy’s locker rooms. In attempts to address (this issue) and encourage inclusivity for LGBTQ+ students, Hastings High School recently established a gender neutral locker room in the hallway that connects the Green and Cochran Gyms.

Formerly Farragut Middle School’s girl’s locker room, the space across from H2 has been converted to a gender neutral locker room in hopes of creating a safer and more comfortable space for nonbinary, genderfluid, or transgender students to change before class. It is open for all students during the school day, from 8:15 to 2:45, and returns to a middle school locker room during after school hours for JV and modified sports. 

Lucy Richer, the sophomore class secretary, came up with the idea this past October. When going to change for gym class, Lucy noticed that numerous students were waiting in line for the single-stall, gender neutral bathroom near the Cochran Gym. 

“I would think: ‘they’re all going to be late for gym class and they all have to share this one bathroom, which is probably uncomfortable,” Lucy explained, “So, I thought there must be a better way—what if they had a locker room just like everyone else has a locker room?”

Lucy described the initial process of getting a gender neutral locker room for high school students as “rocky” and “controversial,” when she first attempted to bring awareness to the issue.

Eventually, the matter was taken to Ms. Hardesty, who set up a task force to hear from students, including those from the LGBTQ+ community, and to hear the struggles they faced in regards to changing for gym.

In recognizing this challenge, Ms. Hardesty expressed, “It’s hard enough to go [and change] in a gender specific [locker room], but when you’re transitioning it’s really a difficult situation because you may not feel comfortable in either place.”

Within the task force, nonbinary and transgender students shed light on other challenges and problems they deal with in the school environment. Notably, some suggested adding menstrual products in the boy’s bathrooms and adding more gender neutral bathrooms throughout the building.

Nevertheless, the main focus of the task force was working on a space for a gender neutral locker room. Lucy recalls different potential solutions the group considered, including using half of the boy’s locker room, the yoga studio, or the showers, but they ended up, this past December, officially settling on the Middle School girl’s locker room as the best place for the new locker room .

Bee Herbstman, an HHS junior who identifies as nonbinary, shared their thoughts on the addition of the locker room. They do not know anyone who uses the gender neutral locker room, and usually finds themself resorting to the girl’s room instead due to the continual stigma around the topic. They also emphasized that there was a lack of students who know that the new locker room is in place. 

Bee believes that if HHS made more of an effort to explicitly make the gender neutral locker room known, then it would be much more effective and useful for those who would prefer it. They also added that this effort  “would show that the administration really cares about people who are nonbinary.” Bee suggests as well that there be more gender neutral facilities around the school to make students feel more comfortable. For example, they propose gender neutral bathrooms with multiple stalls in them.

Speaking from personal experience, Bee explains, “[The all inclusive bathrooms] are often being used by people that are comfortable in their identity—comfortable being a girl or boy—and when a nonbinary person goes to use it, it is usually occupied by someone who isn’t [nonbinary].”  Bee believes these bathrooms should be more geared towards nonbinary students instead of those who are cisgender to help resolve this problem. Because of these perpetual inconveniences, these parts of the school are no longer safe and easily available spaces for students who need to use them. 

“It’s difficult when there are so few places for nonbinary people to feel safe in the school, and if there were more places then I would definitely feel more comfortable at HHS,” says Bee.

In thinking of future ways to encourage inclusivity at Hastings, both Lucy and Bee find that further education on LGBTQ+ topics would be beneficial. Particularly, if LGBTQ+ related matters were a permanent part of the health class curriculum, or incorporated into other classes as well, this education could enable pronoun awareness and bolster general respect for other students. Lucy specifically notes that “there are so many instances where people don’t use the right pronouns [for someone else], and this happens nearly every day.”

Bee also explained how many students have certain associations with people who are LGBTQ+, and often arbitrarily group them together in light of harmful stereotypes, which should be addressed. Ultimately, they argued that an emphasis on these issues would help to simply recognize and acknowledge those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and hopefully make them feel more welcome and safe at the school.