An Oregon high school has opened unisex bathrooms, offering a third option for students who identify as transgender.
Officials at Grant High School in Portland remodeled six existing restrooms, two for staff and four for students, into unisex bathrooms complete with unisex signs on locking doors.
"We just need to make sure that all students are safe and comfortable here, and that they have their needs met," Grant vice principal Kristyn Westphal told The Oregonian. "If they feel unsafe using the bathroom, that's a problem."
Before the change transgender students in the district's largest high school could request a key to a staff restroom, according to the student-run Grant magazine.
Westphal, who is one of two vice principals, said the changes were set into motion in January and cost "a few hundred dollars." She estimated that of 1,600 students, there are about 10 "out" transgender students.
"Some of our gay and lesbian students said they were appreciative and more comfortable going into a different bathroom," she said.
The plan to change the bathrooms came from a student-support meeting with LGBT students, school counselors, school psychologist, and two vice principals. Westphal, who has been at Grant for two years, said that students did not feel comfortable or safe using the restrooms. She spoke of one student who avoided drinking liquid all day as to not use the bathroom.
17-year-old Scott Morrison, a senior at Grant who was born female but now identifies as male, told The Oregonian that he avoided fluids so that he wouldn’t have to pick between the boys’ or girls’ bathrooms. Now Morrison says, "you don't even have to think about it, and that's great."
Oregon leads the nation in equality for the transgender community. In 2007, the Oregon Equality Act was passed forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in several “critical areas,” including public schools. Under the law, gender identity in Oregon means what a person believes his or her gender to be and how he or she chooses to express that gender.
In 2011, 82 percent of LGBT students nationally reported verbal harassment, more than 38 percent reported physical harassment and about 18 percent report being physically assaulted while at school because of their sexual orientation, according to Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s National School Climate Survey.