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Gender neutral locker rooms proposed by Long Beach school district

Gender neutral locker rooms

Long Beach Unified School District has proposed gender neutral locker rooms for a $23 million aquatic center scheduled to begin construction in the summer at Wilson High School. Photo: Long Beach Unified School District.

Long Beach Unified School District has proposed gender neutral locker rooms for a $23 million aquatic center scheduled to begin construction in the summer at Wilson High School.

The gender neutral locker room design is expected to be replicated at five additional high schools where the district wants to build pools.

Instead of having locker rooms for boys and girls, the aquatic center at Wilson High School would have private spaces that students of all gender identities and expressions would use.

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Gender is different from a person’s biological sex. An individual’s gender identity can differ from the sex they are assigned at birth – and can even fall outside the traditional descriptions of male and female.

In the design proposal, the gender neutral locker rooms would have 58 individual changing stalls and 10 individual stalled showers and nine restrooms.

The facility would have a common area, where students will gather to wait for a stall to be available for them to change or shower.

The locker rooms would be accessible for staff of any gender, district officials said.

Two open-space team rooms for water polo and swim teams to use also will be incorporated into the locker room.

The district has created an FAQ document about inclusive facilities.

District officials have said the proposed Wilson High School gender neutral locker room “aligns with the district’s equity and inclusivity values.”

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Inclusive facilities will benefit:

  • LGBTQ students
  • Students with disabilities who require the assistance of a caregiver of a different gender
  • Parents with children of a different gender

In focus groups, Long Beach Unified students consistently described feeling uncomfortable in the communal showers and open changing areas found in traditional locker rooms — regardless of the student’s gender identity and expression or physical ability, district officials said.

Some specific findings from focus groups:

  • Existing locker rooms and restrooms need better supervision to decrease potential bullying and other inappropriate behavior
  • Single-occupancy restrooms not adequate for students who may want a non-binary option
  • Waiting in line for gender neutral stall opens students to bullying or being outed
  • Nurse’s office not convenient and sends message student is sick
  • Inclusive facilities must be convenient and accessible to all students

The gender neutral locker room design was developed with input from teachers, administrators and coaches across school sites,the district said.

The Wilson High School aquatic plan has not yet been approved by the school district. The bidding process is still underway. Final approval by the school board is expected in the coming months.

The facility is scheduled to open for the 2023 school year.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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