There are many reasons why a student may need a different dressing room without being noticed in the process. You may have trans and non-binary students. You may have students who do not feel comfortable changing in front of others because of concerns about modesty or body image issues.
Many students need a private space to change, so put an option before it becomes necessary. Make the usual choice available for all students, regardless of their reason.
I went straight to the source to get inside information from those who were there: theater teachers.
I asked: When you prepare for a show, how do you make your actors comfortable and not stand out? How do you approach students who want confidentiality for change? What solutions have you tried?
I worked in a youth theater that simply had a large dressing area with several stalls for change. (Imagine the stalls changing when you try on clothes in a store.) It was great! Everyone had to change their intimacy and everyone was together in the dressing room to put on make-up and something like that. There was no need for male / female binary spaces. (Jennifer R.)
We made them ourselves dress up pop-up available for anyone who would like to use them. (Laura M.)
Editor’s note: Need a simpler / cheaper solution? If you have dropped ceilings, you can push sheets between the metal grille and the ceiling tiles to create your own pop-up locker room. You can also put a coat hanger on the ceiling and hang a sheet on it or ask your parents for pop-up shower tents.
The student’s choice
Last year, one of our trans boys was greeted with a delightful chorus from the other boys in their locker room, announcing, “_____ your costume is here!” Our students have the option to change in the locker room of their choice and make an announcement to the entire cast that the backstage bathrooms are available to anyone. What worked for us was to send the same message to everyone and not make trans children feel more separated than they already could be. So, for example, there are no individual discussions. Just mutual respect. This works for us, and every year the number of trans children participating has increased. (Georgina C.)
I usually have three locker rooms (men, women and gender neutral), and students are allowed to choose the ones they want. They are also welcome to use the bathrooms if they want more privacy. All the assistance with the wig and make-up is done in my black box space (for people to come in and out of different dressing rooms). We closed the backstage areas to change costumes, if necessary. (Heather C.)
If you have a trans person in your company, it’s important not to “exclude” them or make them publicly identify as trans if they choose not to. I was working on a show with a trans person who identified me as a trans, but chose not to disclose this to the company. They were happy in the common dressing room of their identifying sex and wore basic layers to avoid any need for change in front of anyone, although each dressing room has a private bathroom area. It also determined us, as a theater, to create a policy around the members of transgender companies for the future, so that we have a careful and respectful process. The biggest and most useful thing was to ask this cast member to advise us on what they wanted / needed and to follow it closely. We met with them regularly, usually by e-mail, to keep them anonymous and see if our plans worked and they felt supported. It worked well. (Sally G.)
I have a non-binary student. For a recent school performance, students were given a survey to complete by asking about their dressing preferences: men, women, or gender neutral. Student survey responses were used to allocate dressing spaces. (Lynn K.)
Editor’s note: Be aware of students with physical problems who may be uncomfortable being in their underwear around others.
All children should have a lower layer – a neutral T-shirt and shorts or a thin T-shirt. (Rebecca D.)
My kids all wear “underwear” (T-shirts and shorts / leggings), so any changes that need to take place can happen anywhere. They go to any bathroom to make the initial change, then wear it under suits. (Andi C.)
In my youth theater, everyone has to be dressed in underwear that allows for change anywhere. Usually a dance lining or black T-shirt and spandex shorts. Smoothly. (Roberta W.)
Set a schedule
At the moment we have set the dressing hours because we are just blocking a space in our costume store. Anyone who is not comfortable with this uses a bath. This works for gender and other possible needs for modesty. (Shelby S.)
Finding non-traditional spaces
A few years ago, I arranged for a student to use one of the private bathrooms in the main office as a locker room. (Jim D.)
We don’t have dressing rooms. We don’t judge anyone by the place they dress. Some go to my bathroom, some go backstage, some go to the students’ bathrooms. Nobody talks or discusses who goes where. Many of my students identify as trans or non-binary … respect is the norm. No locker room helps with that, I think. Nothing is identified and because there really is no privacy, my students are told to wear underwear such as leggings and T-shirts under suits and to appear so for the sake of comfort. (Wendi J.)
We are lucky to have disposable bathrooms available behind the scenes. Wearing underwear is also essential. I allow students to arrive very early if they wish. (Joanne F.)
Be creative and innovative with makeshift locker rooms. Any type of trifold partition will work. That way you don’t have to identify the genre. It is for anyone’s use. It’s an option for everyone. (Cynthia W.)
We used to use the toilets. I have a number of students who do not feel comfortable changing in front of others, due to modesty or body image problems. It is not the best solution, but it is another alternative. (Michael A.)
Disclaimer: Check with the district administration and policy on anything discussed in this article about LGBTQ + (LGBTQIA, LGBTQ2S), as laws vary from region to region.
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