This month, University of California President Janet Napolitano pledged to make several single-stall bathrooms gender-neutral on all ten UC campuses in an attempt to make the campus more LGBTQ friendly. Shouldn’t California State Universities be following suit?
Inside Higher Ed, a college-based news site, states that UC graduate student workers forged an agreement that establishes access to bathroom facilities as a “right”. This is indisputable, logically: all students should have the right to use campus facilities for personal needs, regardless of gender identification. Since this was established as a right in the UC system, it should be a right in the CSU system.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been set forth as an explicit right for us–which is part of the issue concerning whether or not CSU campuses should designate genderless bathrooms to accommodate non-binary students.
While it may take months or even years for the idea to seep into the CSU system, the fact that UC schools are moving forward with this decision is a major step in recognizing it as a legitimate issue.
A study published in the Journal of Public Management and Social Policy in 2013 confirmed that 70 percent of transgender/genderqueer people faced discrimination and harassment when trying to use a bathroom. Herman states that the problems arise from the idea of a gender binary: that there are only ‘male’ and ‘female’ people in the world. “The way gendered public restrooms are designed and constructed harms transgender and gender nonconforming people, some of whom may not conform to reified expectations of how men and women will look and act.”
The study reports verbal harassment as the following: asked to leave the facility, being told they were in the wrong one, or getting teased. For 9 percent of the respondents, the confrontations were physical.
More than half of respondents reported having physical problems, such as kidney infections, because they “held it” to avoid the entire situation.
More than half also said they have stayed home because they didn’t feel safe in public.
When we consider this—and the fact that nearly 10 percent of the confrontations were physical—it shifts from a representation issue to a campus safety issue. Does SF State want to keep its students safe and healthy? Does it want accurate representation and accommodation for its students in the most simple respects?
In terms of a shift, this isn’t a big one—certainly not as big as, say, tearing down the Science Building or rebuilding the entire library. It’s as simple as switching a sign. It poses no threat to the public and most people probably wouldn’t even notice if the bathrooms were changed—but it would make a world of difference to the people who needed to use them.
Your biggest worry at school shouldn’t be having to find a safe bathroom.