Young Victorians have shown their support for mandatory gender-neutral bathrooms in all public buildings this week.  

A Bill calling for the banning of all gendered signage on public bathrooms, passed 19-13 through the YMCA Victorian Youth Parliament –  a yearly forum of 120 young people advocating for issues important to them. 

The six students from Castlemaine – 17-year-olds Saskia Lynzaat,  Alina Graeve, Alec Larwill, Chloe Wrzesinski, Jeremy Duff and Jack Griffiths, who put forward the Bill, while thrilled by their achievement, do not consider their victory to be flawless though.  

A Safe & Inclusive Future

The students had spent months planning and drafting the bill, which was the result of one of their classmates being unable to use the only unisex toilet in the school, after it was turned into a teachers’ bathroom.

That moment proved to be a tipping point for the student Chloe Wrzesinski, who is non-binary, and five of their schoolmates. The students decided to take their grievances straight to the Victorian Parliament.

During the debate, that was held virtually because of COVID-19 restrictions, the team argued that their Bill would help build a safe and inclusive Victoria for transgender and gender non-conforming persons. 

The team believes that the success of their Bill reveals that young people support a more equal and inclusive future. 

“The victory of our Bill is a good reflection of the values of young people when it comes to greater LGBTQI+ inclusivity,” Jeremy Duff explained, adding, “I believe that it provides an important milestone towards Victoria becoming a safer and more equal  space.” 

Team Proposes Changes To The Bill To Address One Oversight

Students at the Victorian Youth Parliament 2021.

The Castlemaine team’s excitement was however somewhat tempered by the critiques that arose during the debate.  

Though for the most part, the team was able to defend their Bill from criticisms about logistics and definitions, they were stumped by the argument that gender-neutral bathrooms would not be  inclusive of some religious minorities, most notably hijab-wearing Muslim women.  

“Our argument relied so heavily on creating bathrooms that are acceptable and comfortable for all Victorians,” explained Chloe Wrzesinski. “So the fact we didn’t have anything about Muslim women within our bill was such an oversight.”  

Though frustrated, the team sees this as a chance for growth rather than a failure.  “I’m really annoyed we didn’t include Muslim women,” admitted Saskia Lynzaat. “But it’s really  energised me to want to work on the bill more, to edit it and to fix more things.” 

The team has already come up with several possible amendments that would make their Bill more inclusive, including designated religious changing rooms.  

What’s Next?  

Now that it has passed through the Youth Parliament, the Mandatory Genderless Bathrooms Bill will be forwarded  to the Victorian Minister for Youth, Ros Spence, for consideration. 

From there, there is a chance that the Bill will join the ranks of the more than 30 bills originating  from Youth Parliament that have become official Victorian legislation.  

Though the team does not see the Bill in its current form making it that far, they remain hopeful that an altered and more inclusive version – for instance, one targeting bathrooms in schools – may one day become Victorian  law. 

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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