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Why the bathrooms at one elementary school are causing a stir

Students in elementary school are still in the process of figuring out who they are, and how they want to show that to the world.

And part of who they are, of course, is their gender. A bathroom situation can be tricky to navigate for those not sure where they fit into the blue-or-pink binary (or those who are sure where they fit but don’t yet know how to show it). But one San Francisco elementary school has eliminated the problem, by eliminating gendered bathrooms for younger elementary students, creating gender neutral restrooms in their place.

This year at Miraloma Elementary, the bathrooms located in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms will no longer be separated into “girls” and “boys” bathrooms, and neither will the school’s bigger centralized restroom. In coming years, the bathrooms serving the upper-elementary children will be converted too. This is a move that’s supported by the community, especially because there are 6 to 8 children attending the school who don’t fit neatly into binary gender categories.

More: Oklahoma school backpedals after trying to set limit on bathroom breaks

This is a big change from how other communities have reacted to gender-related bathroom changes; compare this to the mass walkout staged when one transgender teenager in Missouri used the right locker room for her gender. But, as one Miraloma parent noted, the new bathroom situation shouldn’t be confusing or challenging to kids; gender-neutral bathrooms are, after all, the exact same thing they have at home. On top of helping kids feel comfortable going to the bathroom without having to worry about which bathroom they should use, going gender-neutral can also help eliminate bullying related to kids being perceived as using the “wrong” bathroom for their presented gender. Win-win!

Miraloma won’t be the first school to eliminate gender-specific bathrooms; one Pennsylvania school got rid of them in support of a transgender student, and it doesn’t seem to have triggered the Apocalypse. (There have been no reports of flying bears or seas turning into blood, at least.) And many of us grew up with a single gender-neutral bathroom available as kindergarteners or young elementary schoolers — and we seem to have somehow turned out as boring old cisgender women and men anyway. Who’d have thought!

More: My child came out as transgender, now what?

Many parents are familiar with what it means for a child to be transgender, thanks to all the stories in the news, many of them also revolving around bathroom use. But there are lots of other ways a child might not fit into a single binary gender, and all of these non-gender-conforming kids are sure to appreciate bathroom options that don’t force them to pick one. (Knowing about non-binary genders is also a good way to be able to support your child if they happen to fall into one of those categories.)

Some kids may feel that they are agender, or androgynous, and not want any gender markers of any kind; some may be bigender, and want both “Tough Guy” T-shirts and frilly hair bows. Some may be genderfluid, and want to dress in tutus and glitter tights one day, and football jerseys and ripped jeans the next. Some may just be non-gender-conforming; for example, a Miraloma student who identifies as a boy but who likes to wear skirts and keep his hair long.

More: Meet a courageous transgender 5-year-old

However kids prefer to display their gender, they deserve love and support from their parents, and it’s amazing to see that kind of support in the Miraloma Elementary community. Let’s hope that these changes can be used as a model for elementary schools everywhere, so that all kids can feel comfortable in their own skin at school.

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