Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room

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TT/The Local - [email protected]
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
St Eskil's is to build a new changing facillity. Photo: St Eskil's

A high school in Sweden is to build an additional gender neutral changing room to cater for pupils who identify with a gender other than their biological sex, or consider themselves neither male nor female.


St Eskil's gymnasium, in Eskiltuna, a city west of Stockholm, is building the new changing facilities at the request of the student council.  
“We have discussed this with the pupils and have realised that there is a need for this," Johan Ahlkvist, the headmaster, told Swedish Radio
Mary-Jane Nehme, a pupil who was born male but identifies as female, has faced difficulties as she has not been permitted to use the female changing rooms, and has instead had to use her own small room. 
"It feels amazing," she told The Local. "I think our school is the first. My school is very special, it’s very old, and very beautiful, and this makes it even more beautiful. It’s about knowledge and not ignorance." 
The school this week met with the local municipality to plan the construction of the facility. 
“We hope that will be ready in the spring,” Ahlkvist said. 
Nehme faced problems after she outed herself as transgender after Halloween last year, with her gym teacher refusing to let her use the girls' changing room, and instead demanding that he change in his own small room. 
"When I was in the room I had a lot of anxiety. I couldn't change in the room because it made me feel so bad, so I skipped a lot of gym lessons," he said. "The ladies in my school were like 'hey you can be with us, you’re a lady like us' and I was like 'why are you separating me from the ladies?'". 
She said that the student council had been hugely supportive, and had driven through the issue in its meetings with Ahlkvist. 
"The new room, it’s about our decision, it’s our choice, we get to build a room from our dreams and demands, and the funny thing about the room is that we’re in is the gym teacher’s old office."
Although Nehme is the school's only transgender pupil, he said the room would be for all of the schools' pupils. 
"In this new room, I won’t feel alone, I can feel that people who are like me with the same opinions can come. The gender neutral room isn’t just for HBTQ people, it’s for everyone to be in. Everyone can come into the new room, because they don’t think gender is a problem. It’s a place for people to be so they don’t feel uncomfortable." 
He said that homosexual pupils in the school often felt uncomfortable in the male or female changing rooms. 


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