In a powerful gesture of support, a Jewish secondary school has designated a gender-neutral bathroom and dedicated it to a trans alumnus.
Patrick Rock transitioned during his time at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Rock told Mic that he waited until the end of his senior year in 2005 to come out, because he was worried administrators at the 6-12 school would jeopardize his acceptance to college.
The administration was generally supportive, he said, but using restrooms was still a stressful experience.
"I opted for the women's room, but would occasionally run into someone who didn't know me and would give me the once over -- checking to see whether I really 'belonged' there," Rock told Mic.
When he shared his struggles on a return visit to the school two and a half years ago, Barrack's Gay-Straight Alliance started planning a gender-neutral bathroom, reports JTA.
On March 12, ten years after he graduated, Rock's alma mater dedicated the bathroom to him, according to a statement from the school. The new restroom features a rainbow plaque and gender-neutral signage.
Rock told JTA that the gender-neutral bathroom is an expression of Jewish values.
“It’s an expression of respect for one another, an expression of including people in the community, an expression of welcoming folks who have been oppressed," he said.
Sharon Levin, Barrack's Head of School, agreed. “As a pluralistic Jewish school we are respectful of all of the communities here and of everyone’s needs," she said in a statement.
For trans people, the everyday necessity of using a public bathroom can be fraught with stress and danger. Some 150 schools across the United States now have gender-neutral restrooms, but Kentucky, Texas and Florida have all introduced bills that would harshly punish trans people for failing to use the restroom corresponding to the gender they were assigned at birth.
Calls to Barrack were not immediately returned.