Park City students say transgender bathroom is no big deal
Students in Park City High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance have watched as the debate has raged throughout the country surrounding the morality of putting transgender bathrooms in public schools.
They look around the halls of PCHS, where a transgender bathroom has existed for more than a year. What they see does not mirror the ongoing strife in places such as North Carolina, Texas, Alabama and even parts of Utah.
"I would say that it’s not even really an issue that people think about," said Madi DeCamp, a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance’s student leadership board. "People know it’s there, but it’s not negative like, ‘Oh, there’s a transgender bathroom.’ And it’s also not like, ‘Oh, it’s so cool that there’s a transgender bathroom.’ It’s just there."
In fact, if students have taken umbrage with any aspect of the bathroom, it’s with its placement. The bathroom is near the main office, which can be difficult to get to between classes. Those in the Gay-Straight Alliance are hopeful that an expansion to the high school — expected to be built in coming years — will include a centrally located transgender bathroom.
They say their transgender friends have appreciated the existing bathroom but need one that’s more convenient.
"People want to have better access," said Grace Mason, also on the group’s student board.
The lack of hubbub surrounding PCHS’s transgender bathroom illustrates the attitude of inclusiveness that most students at the school share, according to members of the Gay-Straight Alliance. But they are troubled by the uproar they’ve seen in the national news. The issue of transgender bathrooms has divided large swaths of the country, and to the students, it shows how much progress still needs to be made.
Mason said it’s been disheartening to see many states "go in a backwards direction."
"It’s kind of ridiculous how this has happened," she said. "Sexual assault by transgender people (in bathrooms) has never been recorded. There have been more assaults by legislators."
Utah has not been insulated from the debate. It was among 11 states that sued the Obama administration this week following the president’s directive that schools allow transgender students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identities.
Kevin Bouldin, also on the alliance board, was not surprised. Many places in Utah outside of the moderate communities of Park City and Salt Lake City are still unwelcoming of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, he said. He believes a Gay-Straight Alliance, or a campaign to create transgender bathrooms, would fail in those places.
"There are towns close to us that are nowhere near as progressive," he said. "It would be a threat to the safety of people trying to start it. I’ve been out since freshmen year, and I’m comfortable here, but there are places in Utah where I won’t be open."
But the students also see progress. DeCamp recently went on a trip to Ogden and met with people who share a similar outlook to her on LGBT issues. And nearly every month, other students or schools around the state contact PCHS’s Gay-Straight Alliance for information about how to start their own organizations. It gives the students hope that Utah is slowly becoming a more welcoming place.
"More than not, it’s coming not from Salt Lake — it’s coming from somewhere small that there’s basically a snowball’s chance in hell of it actually working," Mason said. "But they have so much faith in it, and I think the fact that exists, that there is the spirit that wants things to change in Utah, is really important."
A Park City High School senior facing 18 criminal charges admitted to releasing pepper spray in the school’s lecture hall last month to prevent a conservative school club from hosting an event.