Students wave the transgender and rainbow flag in front of a new gender-neutral washroom and change room at Carihi. Photo submitted.

Carihi Mirror: New gender-neutral facilities create safe spaces for all

  • Mar. 3, 2018 6:00 a.m.

Braden Majic

Carihi Mirror

Gender-neutral washrooms and change rooms were installed at the end of January and are now open and functional inside Carihi.

“Where is the gender-neutral bathroom?” Is a question that counsellor Barbara Preston got a few times from several students.

Now she will be able to point them in the direction of one.

There are technically three new facilities that have been created.

A washroom was created out of a rarely used space across from the library in the upstairs part of the school.

Then downstairs across from the mezzanine, former male and female assigned washrooms were changed into gender-neutral rooms that can be used as both washrooms and change rooms with locking doors.

“I think there is lots of people who would feel much more comfortable in there,” she said. “I feel the moral imperative is to give people dignity. It’s a human right to be able to go to the bathroom.”

Preston is also the teacher advisor of Carihi’s LGBT2? (with the question mark standing for “questioning”) group which has met every Wednesday at lunch since December. Many of the people who attend the meetings felt happy to hear about the new facilities becoming a reality.

“I was pretty happy to hear about it,” said Grade 12 student Tyrin Kowalko. “Having a gender-neutral washroom means that it doesn’t matter what you identify as, and you can feel comfortable in the washroom. Which you should always be.”

There is nothing complicated about the new facilities, since their sole purpose is to create safe spaces for all to be able to use comfortably throughout the day.

Grade 12 student Isen Pellegrin was also happy to hear about the new facilities being installed some time ago.

“[It’s] not just for trans people but for everybody,” he said.

He also goes on to say that it is nice to have a space not used as often as the other washrooms which means that they are both cleaner and easier to use.

“I know a lot of people are really happy… a lot of them are quite happy that they now have a place that they can feel comfortable,” Kowalko said.

This was a project completed and followed through by the school district, one that had been on many of the group members’ minds.

Right now, a little project the group has started is handing out stickers to certain teachers who are “engaged and involved” with the LGBT conversation to put on their door.

The stickers are of a rainbow flag that states “this is a safe place for LGBTQ people” from the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation.

“To see a teacher willingly put that up, I feel safe to talk to them,” Kowalko said. “That [is] a big deal for me.”

The stickers are a friendly and colourful symbol to have throughout the hallways.

“We’re trying to be thoughtful about giving them out,” Preston said.

This is just one of several potential projects the weekly student-driven group can take charge in.

New members are welcome to come to the meetings every Wednesday at lunch currently in F Wing in the room beside the Flex Lab.

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