Push for Gender-Neutral Bathrooms continues

Bathrooms can make or break a public place. In a setting as public as Oakland University, easy access to a restroom is of tantamount importance for there to be an avoidance of mass hysteria.

However, the focus on only two genders for restrooms leaves some people out of this proclaimed equity, which has led some to call for the idea of gender-neutral restrooms.

“Gender-neutral or unisex restrooms are typically single-stall public restrooms that can be used by anyone, regardless of sex or gender,” said Grace Wojcik, Coordinator of the Gender & Sexuality Center. “The purpose of a gender-neutral restroom is to provide a safer option for transgender or gender variant people who often experience harassment, physical assault, and/or arrest when using typical public restrooms.”

While seemingly only for those that are transgender or outside the gender binary, these restrooms would also benefit those who do fit into the gender binary.

“Gender-neutral restrooms are also used by parents with young children and/or individuals who require personal assistants or caregivers,” Wojcik said.

Organizations associated with the Gender & Sexuality Center, such as the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), have pushed this idea at OU in the past, as early as fall of 2012, according to Wojcik.

“The goal is to have at least one gender neutral bathroom in every building on campus,” GSA treasurer Kevin Farmer said.

One on every building is ideal, although there are a few sporadically placed throughout the campus.

“There are already gender-neutral bathrooms around campus, but they are few and far in between, GSA President Becca Reichenbach said.”And, for a student who really needs to use the restroom but is switching between classes, it can be a real struggle.”

Currently, there are no gender-neutral restrooms in the Oakland Center, but some have been mistakenly presented as one.

“A sign on the bottom level of the OC between the men and women’s restrooms still has a gender neutral bathroom sign on it but was never made into one,” Reichenbach said. “Some students might think it is one, but in fact, it is just a closet.”

With notable stars like trans-activist Laverne Cox appearing on the cover of TIME magazine, transgender acceptance is seemingly at an all-time high. However, many do not feel that there are enough safe spaces for those that identify as such.

“Just one issue is knowing exactly which faculty and professors one can trust when it comes to being an ally to the LGBT communities,” Farmer said. “Those who are an open and active ally to the L, G, B communities may not be so friendly to the T community.”