Changing Changing Rooms to Gender Neutral
Sharon Lauer, the Head of School of Unquowa School in Fairfield, Connecticut, came to us two years ago with her latest challenge. Unquowa, a small day school with a very big heart, wanted to support a child who was grappling with their gender identity. This involved considering how the school’s physical environment could be altered to give the child time and space.
Knowing that locker rooms can be fraught places, Sharon and her colleagues focused on how and where the kids changed for gym class. They wanted to make a comfortable, bright, and cheerful space that was private and open at the same time. The happy and supportive place they envisioned would have stalls with lockable doors, colorful cubbies for clothes and gear, and comfortable ottomans in the middle where kids could wait their turn. With a few clarifying questions from Jim Childress, Russell Learned, and Anna Shakun, we were off to the races.
The child’s parents were so thrilled with our design that they offered to fund the project themselves. The Community Changing Space is also a hit with teachers, who can now discretely and comfortably keep an eye on things and report much less horsing around. This new approach has been embraced by all students. Sharon told us that one shy boy, who never said much when his parents asked the obligatory “How was school today?” positively gushed about not having to change in front of his classmates. That hits home for most of us.
Admittedly, Sharon is a fan. But even with that bias, she paid us a great compliment when describing how transformative the space was. While we’re flattered, we really hope that the Community Changing Space is, as the moniker suggests, a reassuring and comfortable place for all of Unquowa’s children as they find their way in the world.