Students and faculty of North expressed concern and advocated for the rights of transgender students in light of a repeal of federal policy that allowed transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity.
On Feb. 22, the Trump administration repealed protections for transgender students established by the Obama administration allowing for the use of facilities of the identified gender rather than the gender assigned at birth.
The federal rule will not impact North, according to principal Henry Turner.
“Nothing will change because we follow Massachusetts law. It is very clear on supporting LGBTQ students,” he said. “Students can use the bathroom that identifies with their gender and comfort ability, as well as the gender inclusive bathrooms.”
“It’s unfair that some students didn’t have access to such a basic need that is available to most,” said junior Eliza Inder. She explained that she could not imagine feeling uncomfortable or out of place in restrooms or locker rooms and decided to take action by working with the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) to create gender inclusive bathrooms at North.
“I think student advocacy is an essential piece to how we grow as a school. Our working group, our GSA, our Feminism Club, and more are sort of pushing us to think about how we can do a better job supporting all students,” Turner said.
“Our best changes come from students because it is their school. They have creative ideas for how to advocate for their issues that can relate to all kids,” he added.
“It’s not really about the bathrooms, it’s about whether or not trans people can exist in public,” said sophomore Achille Ricca, speaking about his experience as a transgender male at North. According to Ricca, even though North will not be impacted by the repeal and works to provide a safe environment for LGBT students, the issue of rights for transgender individuals must not be brushed off.
Both Turner and Ricca recognize areas in which students and faculty can improve in welcoming LGBT students.
“A couple of weeks ago we had a workshop for faculty about gender identity,” Turner said. “I think what was really helpful was the array of terminology and language that connects with identity. I think that’s an area where we can grow, kind of learning and understanding how we use language.”
The faculty reviewed attitudes and beliefs towards gender as well as the correct pronouns that a student may identify with.
Ricca explained that in a time in which transgender students are not entirely protected in public schools, it is important to do everything we can to maintain and improve the safety and environment of North.
According to Ricca, teachers are not typically intentionally malicious in their interactions with transgender students, but they do often have a lack of knowledge about the correct names and terms to use for LGBT students. To help this issue and maintain a welcoming environment for transgender students, education is the answer, Ricca said.
In his transition, Ricca had a mixed experience. He explained that he found a mixture of safety and discomfort in the North community. “My teachers for the most part were really accepting, but then there were some students who would say ‘she’ or call me by my old name to try to get a rise out of me,” he said.