Orange County is one of the most progressive counties of North Carolina. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro area rallied against Amendment One, a bill which would have prevented gay marriage in our state.
We have proven ourselves an open-minded community when it comes to the lesbian, gay, and bisexual people among us, which is why I find it so difficult to think Chapel Hill is forgetting the other side of the queer community: gender identity.
Some of you may have read The Daily Tar Teel article last December about a group of students at Chapel Hill High School pushing for a gender- neutral bathroom. It has been nearly a year since the article, and most inquiries are still met with a wave of the hand and an assurance it will be resolved. What you may not know is that this year, a transgender student attempting to use a bathroom presumed to be gender neutral was reported by a teacher for using the bathroom incorrect for their biological sex. This resulted from miscommunication between the administration and student body about the label on that bathroom.
It has been a year since the idea was presented to our school board, with a solution already proposed. All the students are asking is for one gendered bathroom to be switched to a gender-neutral restroom. This is as simple as switching a label and informing students. This does not invade the privacy of anyone at the school. This only helps the students who need it.
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Many may question the importance of this issue. The answer can be better explained by someone who has gone through this experience, but I will endeavor to provide reasons why we cannot afford to drag our feet any longer.
Segregating non-gender binary (people who do not identify with any single gender construct) and transgender (people whose gender identity is different from their birth sex) has a profound effect on their mental health. Forcing students to use a restroom they do not feel comfortable in contributes to gender dysphoria; a mental disease recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, which can cause feelings of anxiety, depression and distress. In addition, many students will often face harassment by their peers when forced to use a restroom different from their gender identity.
Leelah Alcorn, a trans teenager who took her life not even a year ago was unfortunately one among many. According to the Youth Suicide Prevention Program, half of transgender, agender, and genderfluid teens will attempt suicide before the age of 20, a rate nearly 10 times higher than the general public. When interviewed as part of a study, most trans teenagers reported that it was a result of the harassment they face at school, or body image issues.
As an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, I cannot let this rest. This is why I have turned to the community of Chapel Hill and Carrboro to make a request. Write in to our school board. Tell them that you want to see progress on this issue. Email our superintendent, Tom Forcella. If you have too much going on at the moment, there is a petition online, which can be on petitions.moveon.org by searching Chapel Hill in the search bar. This is not a funding issue. This is a people issue. With the mental health of the young adults of our area at risk, we cannot drag are feet on this issue.
Bryanna Chazotte is an alumnus of Chapel Hill High School.