Chloe, 17, went to the bathroom at their school in Castlemaine one day, only to find that the door was locked. What had once been the only unisex toilet on campus had been turned into a teachers’ bathroom.
And just like that, Chloe, a non-binary student from Castlemaine, had no toilet in their school that they could comfortably use. This moment represented a tipping point for Chloe and five of their schoolmates, who, this month, are taking their grievances straight to the Victorian Parliament.
Getting A Bill To Parliament
The YMCA Youth Parliament is an annual program where 120 students and young people are coached through preparing and presenting bills to a parliament of their peers. The bills that get passed in the Parliament are then handed onto the Minister for Youth for consideration.
This year, Chloe’s team will be presenting a Bill proposing mandatory genderless bathrooms in all public buildings.
“It’s just about creating a space that’s just more inclusive and safer and more convenient for everyone,” Chloe told Star Observer.
The Castlemaine team’s Bill aims to be easily implementable, calling for the replacement of all existing gendered signage on and in bathrooms with signs instead displaying information about the bathroom’s contents.
The team says the benefits of this signage swap would be numerous – protecting transgender people from violence both in and outside of bathrooms, and working to deconstruct a man-made system of binary gender.
Gender affirmation for gender non-conforming people too would be a benefit of the change, and one that is very close to Chloe’s heart.
“When you’re standing there, and you have to like, choose between two bathrooms,” they explained “you’re like: […] if I go in the women’s am I just admitting that, like I’m lying about my identity?”
Preparing For A Backlash
Even so, the Castlemaine team does not anticipate that their proposed Bill would pass without encountering any pushbacks or naysayers. And to those people Chloe has this response: “Your bathroom in your home is gender neutral. Like, it’s not a revolutionary concept.”
More seriously though, the team is acutely aware the cause of genderless bathrooms is not an easy one to fight for. As transgender rights and issues have become increasingly visible in the last half decade, so too has the rhetoric of transphobes, who have made inclusive bathrooms a battleground issue.
But Chloe and their schoolmates, who see the benefits of their Bill as far too important to give up on, have no intention of backing down.
“Transphobia is a thing, a scary thing.” Chloe explained, “There are people who are like, sexually assaulted or just assaulted because they are gender non-conforming. Having [toilets be] gender neutral is like directly making it safer for them.”
In an effort to mediate pushbacks, as well as to more broadly inform, the team’s Bill also includes plans for a media campaign aimed at better educating people regarding gender, gender non-conforming people and the benefits of gender-neutral bathrooms.
At the end of the day though, for Chloe and their team, the issue at the heart of this Bill remains a personal one. “I remember going to open the door,” Chloe recounted, “and it was locked!”
The YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament online sitting begins September 20, 2021.
Charlie Goldberg (she/her), is a student journalist currently covering the YMCA Youth Parliament program as part of the Youth Press Gallery.
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