The accessibility issues of Lincolns gender-neutral bathrooms


May Cole

Gendered bathrooms are present on every floor of the Lincoln building. In contrast gender-neutral bathrooms are only available on the first and second floors.

Attending a six-story school where the only two gender-neutral bathrooms are on the first and second floors is an issue of accessibility for many transgender and gender non-conforming Lincoln students.

Senior Eden Gervais has personally struggled to use the available gender-neutral bathrooms, given their distance from the upper floors.

“I was looking forward to attending Lincoln because it had gender-neutral restrooms, but my classes were so spread out that it was pretty inaccessible to have to go to the first floors to use the bathroom,” said Gervais.

The issues regarding the inaccessibility of non-gendered bathrooms were brought up in the admin town hall on Nov. 3. The solution presented by administrators was to convert the staff single-use bathrooms on the 3rd and 5th floors into gender-neutral spaces. The conversion of the bathrooms, while not having an official date, is expected to be finished in the next coming months.

Gervais believes that while adding these single-use spaces is a start to resolving the issue, the school is not able to entirely solve the accessibility problem.

“It’s a one-person situation and we’re an almost 2000-person high school. I think it will help, but it’s not the solution,” said Gervais.

Along with the size limitations of the single-use bathrooms, there are safety concerns. Lincoln art teacher Coren Rau is afraid of student’s safety being jeopardized in the soon-to-be converted bathrooms. 

“It’s a space that’s really hard to monitor,” said Rau.“If teachers are conditioned to assume that they are a teacher’s space, they’re not gonna have it on their radar that its a space that they need to pay attention to.”

Not all Portland Public Schools (PPS) high schools have gendered bathrooms. At Grant High School, for example, all bathrooms are gender-neutral.

Junior Juliet Zimmerman believes that Grant’s bathroom model is better suited to address all student needs.

“They made all gender-neutral bathrooms and they’ve been functioning just fine,” Zimmerman said.

At Lincoln, many students are currently feeling underserved by the lack of available gender-neutral bathrooms throughout the school. Rau emphasized that the lack of gender-neutral bathrooms is actively taking away from students’ learning.

“It’s taking away people’s access to education by making it necessary for them to go to unreasonable lengths just to do something basic like going to the bathroom,” said Rau.