A group of Oakland University students and faculty are advocating for more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
According to Blake Bonkowski, president of the Gay-Straight Alliance at OU, people who are transgender, have a family with young children or are disabled are inconvenienced or unsafe when the only restrooms nearby are gendered.
“There are already a few (gender-neutral restrooms) in some of the buildings, but we are mostly concerned right now with placing one in the lower level of the OC by the bookstore, which already has room for a gender neutral bathroom, and having more in housing,” Rebecca Reichenbach, vice president of the GSA, said.
There are currently six on campus.
Transcend, the transgender and allies organization on campus, is also helping with the proposal, according to Bonkowski.
According to Bonkowski, the Intro to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies class taught by Dalton Connally, assistant professor of social work, approached the GSA to get involved in the project.
“Dalton Connally’s Intro to LGBT Studies class has taken the lead on this project and we are supporting them in any way we can,” Bonkowski said.
Reaching their goal
According to Bonkowski, last fall, Transcend began locating all of the gender- neutral bathrooms on campus, and there is currently a list of locations available to students who need it.
Reichenbach said the proposal to add more gender-neutral restrooms on campus came to the forefront in June during a Leadership Institute Camp at OU, although the idea has been around for longer.
The next step, according to Bonkowski, is trying to get more of these restrooms on campus.
Reichenbach said the GSA is still working on determining who and when to present the proposal to, but they hope to have the bathrooms installed as soon as possible. Bonkowski said any construction that needed to be done could be completed during winter break.
“We haven’t aimed for a specific date, but the sooner, the safer and the better for OU students,” Reichenbach said. “Planning and construction would take some time, but for spaces like the one between the designated gender bathrooms in the lower level of the OC, there is already running water, enough space and a sign that says the closet was intended to be a gender-neutral bathroom. Spaces like this could easily be turned into a gender-neutral bathroom within the next few years.”
Safety and convenience
Reichenbach said she hopes, if these bathrooms are created, students will gain safety and feel more accepted on campus.
“Walking into a designated-gender bathroom as a person who is transgender, genderqueer, agender or gender nonconforming, can not only be uncomfortable but could also be potentially unsafe if the person is confronted by someone who is not an ally, who wishes harm upon the student,” Reichenbach said.
“My goal as president of the GSA has always been to make sure that all students are as safe, comfortable and prosperous as possible during their time at OU,” Bonkowski said. “This desire continues through this project.”