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Students react to gender neutral bathrooms at WCU

Nowadays, gender-neutral bathrooms have become more accessible to the trans community. According to a Yelp survey in 2017, more than 160,000 businesses have gender-neutral bathrooms.

This statistic shows that restaurants, stores and even cafes have made an effort to meet the community’s needs of labeling bathrooms appropriately for inclusivity.

University settings in America also include gender-neutral friendly bathrooms. According to a statistic from Campus Answers in 2017, 150 colleges and universities offer some type of gender-neutral bathroom. At West Chester University, there are places around campus with restrooms tailored for the trans community.

On the Center for Trans and Queer Advocacy’s website, there is a detailed list of where all of the gender-neutral bathrooms are located on campus for students. “To my knowledge, all buildings have gender-neutral bathrooms, except for Ruby Jones,” said Yami Reyes, student and Peer Educator at the Center for Trans and Queer Advocacy (CTQA).

According to a statistic from Campus Answers in 2017, 150 colleges and universities offer some type of gender-neutral bathroom.

Reyes also shares which restrooms have the most access. “The best buildings that have the most accessibility to the bathrooms are Anderson and Wayne,” says Reyes. “They have one in every floor, I believe.”

Researchers at Clark University and University of Massachusetts at Amherst surveyed more than 500 transgender undergraduate and graduate students and recent alumni and found that bathrooms are the most important aspect to guarantee a safe and inclusive learning environment. Although it is a huge step for the university to include gender-neutral on campus, there are still some inconsistencies and issues with them.

Visibility was one of the issues talked about among students on campus.

“Gender-neutral bathrooms on our campus make me feel more safe,” said Maggie Collins, fourth-year communicative sciences major, Peer Educator and Treasurer of CTQA. “I feel more comfortable going to gender-neutral bathrooms, but I think it’s really frustrating that I have to sacrifice some of my educational time when I’m in classes to go and search for them in some academic buildings that are on the bottom floor.”

“People don’t know where to find them unless they ask, because there aren’t any directional signs to them like there are for gendered bathrooms,” said Reyes on visibility.

Kali Van Nostrand, third-year student and Peer Educator at CTQA, also shared her thoughts on visibility. “I do know that it would be really convenient if they were more prevalent and people could notice them more.”

Students also expressed issues with availability. “Most buildings have one singular gender-neutral bathroom in the whole building. [There is] an issue if you need to use it urgently and are floors away from it,” Reyes said.

According to the Design and Construction Manual page on the university’s website, under the section titled, “Gender-Neutral Toilet Facilities,” “All new building designs shall incorporate at least one centrally located non-gender single use toilet room into the design of the building. On larger projects, one gender neutral toilet facility can be/shall be provided on each floor.”

Jayson Lutrario, President of SAGA and Peer Educator at CTQA, says that the students who occupy the gender-neutral bathroom use it to change too and that having more bathrooms is better than one in buildings around campus.

“I think there should be more. I don’t understand why they make a new building and don’t put more than one there when they have the opportunity,” Lutrario said. Students have also expressed concerns regarding the locking mechanisms of some of the bathrooms in certain buildings.

“So I know the one in Goshen Hall that doesn’t have a lock. So you have to lock the actual door because it’s kinda weird in there, but besides that, I don’t have a lot of experience with that,” Van Nostrand said.

While there are students that never encountered being walked on in a gender-neutral bathroom, there are accounts of students having their private space violated. “I have heard of people getting walked in on while using the gender-neutral bathrooms in Sykes, before and after the renovations,” said Reyes. “I personally have been walked in on using the bathrooms last semester. Two people walked in during one visit.”

There have been complaints about the bathrooms with Reyes and others going to the president of the university to seek a solution. According to Reyes, the response was “dismissive.”

To gain more information about the gender-neutral bathrooms, visit the Center for Trans and Queer Advocacy or visit their page: www.wcupa.edu/TransQueer.

Hania Jones is a fourth-year student majoring in English and minoring in journalism. HJ902644@wcupa.edu

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