Teens take tons of selfies, but this 19-year-old managed to start a meaningful online dialogue with her recent series of photos snapped inside a gender-neutral bathroom.
Julissa Emile, a student at Boston's Wheelock College, was taking part in a collegiate poetry slam competition in Chicago with her school's slam team last weekend when she was inspired to take a few selfies with some pals in said restroom.
The photo series, shown below, begins with Emile standing alone in front of the bathroom mirror. For each of the following three photos, at least one friend joins her, and the series culminates in a sweet group pic inspired by this popular meme. Along with the series of snaps, Emile tweeted, "A gender neutral bathroom but every time I take a picture more queer people get in the photo."
To Emile's surprise, the set of innocent selfies she'd taken with pals (all of whom identify as queer) soon went viral. In less than six days, the teen's initial tweet has been retweeted more than 21,000 times and liked by more than 51,000 users.
"I was just taking selfies in this amazing bathroom and then my friend Madaline joined me, and then Ellie and Lucas and Jeffry came in," Emile tells BuzzFeed News of the impetus for the selfie series.
And while the photos were all in good fun, it should come as no surprise that Emile is an outspoken advocate of gender-neutral bathrooms. "Personally, I think gender-neutral bathrooms are a necessity," she says. "Everyone deserves the right to exist in a public space."
Many schools and other institutions around the world are slowly but surely starting to agree. In 2015, a San Francisco elementary school installed a gender-neutral bathroom when it realized many students felt uncomfortable with separate bathrooms for boys and girls, and in 2014 dozens of schools across the United Kingdom adopted new gender-neutral uniforms for students.
Much to Emile's delight, many Twitter users share her sentiment and just can't get enough of the delightful, to-the-point photo series. Some called it "so beautiful" while another deemed Emile's post, "The only tweet that matters."
But, as with just about everything online these days, not all of the feedback was positive. Emile conversed with at least one user who called her message "social harrasment," though that tweet has since been deleted, and others took the opportunity to attack gender-neutral bathrooms.
"So many people said so many homophobic, transphobic, and racist things to us," Emile reveals. "Why? People literally have gender-neutral bathrooms in their own homes. What's the big deal?"
"Everyone should have access to public bathrooms without having violence inflicted on them," she adds, and she certainly has the courage of her convictions. On April 18 — days after going viral — Emile tweeted: "The only thing about internet "fame" that matters is using your platform to talk about a cause you care about."
And here she is (on the right) reading part of a poem about the importance of intersectional feminism:
This gal is definitely going places!