Gender-neutral washrooms part of CBE's plan for new schools

Students in new Calgary Board of Education schools will have a third choice when looking to use the washroom in the near future.

Transgendered student Sam Dyck shares with Calgary Eyeopener how the idea came about

Sam Dyck met with Calgary Board of Education officials to help plan the rollout of gender-neutral washrooms in 20 new schools. (CBC)

Students in new Calgary Board of Education schools will have a third choice when looking to use the washroom in the near future.

The CBE has agreed to include gender-neutral washrooms in 20 new schools. Sam Dyck, a transgendered student at Forest Lawn High School, helped to make that happen.

Dyck spoke with the Calgary Eyeopener's David Gray Friday. What follows is an edited transcript of that interview.

David Gray (DG): Why do you think schools should have gender neutral washrooms?

Sam Dyck (SD): Gender neutral washrooms should be included in schools because there's more people like me. There's gender neutral identifying people, and anyone along the transidentifying spectrum who don't feel comfortable walking into the girls' or the boys' washroom.

DG: Sam, can you explain what transgender is?

SD: Transgender is basically where an individual does not identify with their birth sex. So for me I was born as a female but I identify as a male.

DG: The CBE invited you to speak with them about this. How open were they to the idea?

SD: They were wide open with the idea. The meeting was great. And I'm very hopeful that schools in the future are going to get more gender-neutral washrooms and that old schools could get retrofitted to get some.

DG: What made the meeting great? Tell me about that.

SD: Everyone was so open to the idea, and it was made a reality within that meeting because our GSA [Gay-Straight Alliance] was planning gender-neutral blueprints for our ideal, but then ... it just kind of hit that, wow, we can actually get a fully functioning, large gender-neutral washroom.

DG: How is it different?

SD: Well, the gender-neutral washroom that we have right now is just a single stall staff washroom. And it's like 15 minutes to go get the key from one teacher, to go like halfway across the school, down into the cafeteria to go use the washroom. And it's highly public, there's a lot of people hanging out there and it's kind of awkward. So having these more integrated as a normal, or a third washroom, would make it so much easier for everybody.

DG: So would a gender-neutral washroom be for everyone, or just transgendered students?

SD: It's for everyone. So anybody could walk into it: someone who is transgender, or transidentifying, someone who is biologically a boy and still is a boy, someone who's a girl and we're making them handicapped-accessible as well.

DG: What's your experience been like as a transgendered student going to a Calgary high school?

SD: It's actually pretty easy. At the beginning of Grade 10, I came out as transgendered and it was a really easy switch form the old me to who I really am. The teachers accepted it like it was nothing. They were so open about it. Students asked questions, and it was sometimes awkward because walking into the boys washroom when people aren't used to seeing you as a guy can be kind of awkward.

But overall it's been great, I haven't had any physical altercations or anything like that. It's just been a little bit of verbal stuff, but now there's nothing. And everyone just kind of knows, thanks to me being in the media, that I'm trans and they don't really care.

DG: Is that a generation thing? Do you think people your age are more accepting and open to the idea than older folks?

SD: I don't know, actually. It's kind of equal on both sides. What I find with the new generation, it all depends on how they were raised. So if they know that LGBTQ people are OK, then they have no issue. It's only certain ignorant people that have an issue. But I find my parents are accepting, the rest of my family are pretty much accepting, and all my teachers are. It's kind of like everyone just has open arms.

DG: The number of students who identify as transgendered is relatively small. How far do you think schools should go to accommodate people's needs? Would you like to see this move beyond schools? Would you like to see gender-neutral washrooms in all public buildings?

SD: I think that it's just a basic human need to go to the washroom. So if someone doesn't feel safe going into the washroom — whether it be for gender reasons or just because they don't feel comfortable going to the girls' or the boys' — I think these are needed because people can just go to the washroom and feel safe.

I know going to the mall, or other public places, it can be kind of awkward going into the guys' washroom. But then when a teenager walks into the family washroom everyone's like, "What are they doing?" So gender-neutral washrooms would make things so much easier.