School sets up ‘gender-neutral’ dressing room

School sets up 'gender-neutral' dressing room
A Stockholm high school is set to open a third changing room for transsexual pupils and those who don't want to define themselves as being male or female, a move believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

“It’s for people who aren’t comfortable being divided into gender stereotypes,” Camille Trombetti, who sits on the student council at Södra Latin gymnasium, told The Local.

She said management at the central Stockholm high school at first welcomed the idea.

“They were very positive and welcoming but we had to figure out how to do it practically,” said Trombetti, who underlined that the student council has long pushed to expand the rights of LGBT students.

“We were the first student council to march in the Stockholm Pride Festival last year, and we encourage our teachers to use the pronoun ‘hen’.”

Trombetti explained that teachers now use the gender-neutral pronoun instead of the male and female “hon” and “han” in “relevant situations” rather than replacing them.

“So you’d say that ‘a minister, hen does this and that’, but you wouldn’t use hen if you are speaking about the actual minister, where you would just say she or he,” Trombetti explained.

“Or you use ‘hen’ in situations when you don’t know a person’s gender.”

For Swedes who have ridiculed the “hen” debate since it kicked off last year, Trombetti has little patience. She also thinks people should take the need for gender-neutral spaces seriously.

“Every human being deserves a place where they feel comfortable,” she said.

“I’d remind people that hundreds of people commit suicide every year because they feel they are born into the wrong sex and don’t feel their surroundings accept the gender they identify with.”

Trombetti said there were “enough” trans students at Södra Latin to justify the need for a separate changing room.

The new changing room consists of a smaller, lockable room that will be accessible to anyone who wants to change clothes in privacy. Students will be allowed to change one at at time, rather than in a group setting.

The new facility will be inaugurated on May 6th, with a keynote address by Swedish artist Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin, known for her photographic art on gay rights in the show ‘Ecce Homo’.

According to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) daily, the school’s gender-neutral changing room is the first of its kind in Sweden.

Ann Törnkvist

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