Karen Rivera also contributed to this article.
Over the past few years, the world has progressed when it comes to the inclusivity of people who don’t identify as cisgender (meaning they do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth). Society has adapted, and so has Malden High School, with the arrival of gender-neutral bathrooms at MHS.
Most students agree that despite the good intentions, the introduction of gender-neutral bathrooms has been rocky. Senior Leana Cambell stated that “[she] thinks they’re cool” but oftentimes sees people using them inappropriately.
Additionally, Senior Lucas Williams said that he thinks that the gender-neutral bathrooms are important for people “who don't identify with a specific gender so that they choose what they want.” Even so, he thinks that it isn’t working out because “people don’t take the bathroom seriously.”
With the Boyle and Jenkins house girl’s bathrooms being converted into gender-neutral bathrooms, Senior Adriann Monohan Dasilva believes that “it's not being used right because the majority of the gender-neutral bathrooms mostly are occupied by girls.” Dasilva believes that “people don't feel comfortable going in there because they used to be girl bathrooms and people still see them that way.”
When asked about the topic, Senior Olivia Chan stated that “she believes [the school’s] heart was in the right place” when they tried to be inclusive of other genders, but the impact overshadowed the intent. The amount of people piling in there made it “really weird, so [many other people do not] really want to go in there.”
In addition to the unforeseen issues that have arisen with the introduction of gender-neutral bathrooms, some students also feel as though the idea wasn’t thoroughly fleshed out before its introduction. Senior Krista Micalizzi stated that she believes the school has gotten “gender-neutral confused with gender non-conforming.” (Gender neutral being for all genders and gender non-conforming being any gender that doesn’t match with feminine or masculine conventions.) She cited examples where she tried entering the bathroom and was stopped by a teacher without being asked about her gender identity. She finds it disheartening as “just because [she doesn’t] physically look like it doesn’t mean that [she is] not non-binary or gender non-conforming.”
Senior Adriann Monohan-Dasilva expresses similar feelings, as she recalled a time she attempted to use the bathroom and a teacher stopped her stating that “those bathrooms are for non-binary students only.” Dasilva was distraught at the fact that the teacher “looked at [them] and said “oh these are all girls” which Dasilva believes “defeats the whole point of the bathroom.”
Due to the lack of clarity, there is a misunderstanding of who can use the bathrooms and the real purpose of them in the school. Dasilva stated that her understanding of the bathrooms was that “anybody could go in there.” However, “based on how teachers keep changing what they're saying,” she is unclear of the true intent behind them.
Similarly, Senior Alex Boisette feels as though the school should have turned to student voices for input when adding the bathrooms. Alongside the issue involving the difference between the gender-neutral and gender non-conforming label, Boisette feels as though the bathrooms accomplish the opposite of their intended purpose; since the bathrooms are being overrun by people abusing it, it is making the people it was originally intended to help (nonbinary and transitioning students) “feel less safe than they were before.” She believes much of this could have been averted with more input from the students. “An email should've been sent out with a survey asking how the students would feel about a gender-neutral bathroom.”
Freshman Jazlyn Martinez recognizes that Malden High School meant well, stating that the “idea was good, what [Malden High was] trying to do was good but [the bathrooms] are being used for the wrong reasons.”
Although many student voices at Malden High School expressed their concerns about how the bathrooms are being used currently, they also recognize the school's efforts towards making Malden High School a place where all students can “feel comfortable.”
Amid the negative effects the gender-neutral bathrooms have caused, the students also pointed out the positive aspects of the bathrooms being added to the school.
Hayes expressed that “[she] thinks it's a good move because we want to make everyone feel comfortable and make sure everyone has a safe space.” Students who felt like they maybe don't identify as male or female no longer feel like they don't have a place to go and have a place that fits them and how they choose to identify.
Senior Damien Cuevas also stated that “[he] feels like it's inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community and it is very positive.”
Principal Mastrangelo recognizes that the bathrooms have had a rocky introduction, however, he is adamant that they were done in the name of inclusivity and tolerance for nonbinary, genderfluid, and transitioning students at MHS. One of his biggest goals is making sure that everybody “feels safe and welcomed...and that everybody has an equitable opportunity to be successful.”
This story is ongoing at Malden High School. This article is meant to highlight the opinions regarding the topic. Further developments will be reported on at maldenblueandgold.com