In recent weeks, the issue of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus flared up yet again. In the Nov. 12 issue of The Watchdog, miscommunication resulted in a plethora of inaccurate information. Currently, a new sign for gender-neutral bathrooms has not been decided on and no suggestions for new signs have reached Ray White, vice president of Administrative Services.
According to White, BC currently has 15 gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. “They’re not ideally located and they don’t have the signage on them. Most of them are single occupancy bathrooms that are held in more office-type spaces rather than public spaces, which creates some awkwardness when trying to get to some of those,” said White.
As BC moves forward with construction projects and add-ons to current buildings, White claimed that opportunities for gender-neutral bathrooms are always in consideration when laying out space. The two newest gender-neutral bathrooms were added in right outside the new bookstore, and are currently only labeled with a paper sign that says “Restrooms,” with two arrows pointing in their direction.
For the future, White said that there is the potential for new gender-neutral restrooms in the theater and outside of A265, and the new T Building will have several as well.
The work to get gender-neutral bathrooms signs up and out is currently in the hands of the LGBTQI Task Force. The task force is made up of Aaron Reader, Yoshiko Harden, Emily Merrill, Teague Crenshaw, Beabe Akpojovwo, Federica Dennis, Tammi Doyle, Craig Hurd-McKenney, Natalie Martinez, Donna Miguel and Vong Ratts. The issue of gender-neutral restrooms has been a project for the Task Force and the LGBTQ Resource Center for the past decade, and not five years as stated in the Nov. 12 issue of The Watchdog.
Last spring, the task force was instructed by White to come up with a proposal for the restrooms as well as provide sign recommendations. The signs, when approved, will not only be the signage for bathroom doors but also “locators,” as White called them, that will be in public areas to direct individuals in the direction of a restroom.
“The task force has researched and discussed signage over the last year, with multiple options presenting themselves. Options include, as the article indicates, a toilet symbol, multi-gender symbols and various other ways of illustrating the concept of an all-gender restroom. The task force has heard from students that certain signage options are not preferred, given that they reinforce gender identity stereotypes,” said the task force in an email sent to The Watchdog.
“I’m still waiting to see a proposal,” said White. “I haven’t seen anything yet.”
For White, it is clear that gender-neutral bathrooms on campus are a must.
“I absolutely think it’s an equity issue. This is a function that everybody has to do, and for everybody to feel welcome here, we need to be able to accommodate everybody,” said White.
Ideally, the goal is to have as many gender-neutral locations on campus as possible as well as to make sure they are dispersed evenly throughout the campus, stated White. “I don’t think anybody should have to go out of their way to get a basic service like a restroom.”
A few obstacles come along with gender-neutral restrooms, though. According to White, BC was and is built to a code that was standard in the 1950s. As society and culture changes, however, building codes remain the same. This results in White and his team being unable to convert current bathrooms into gender-neutral restrooms. However, the act of converting the single occupancy bathrooms that are already on campus into gender-neutral restrooms will be as simple as putting a new sign up. In the future when new bathrooms are built, they will be more accommodating for any who wish to use them.
Currently, the gender-neutral bathrooms on campus are single-stall restrooms where an individual can go in, lock the door, and be the only person in the room. According to White, the task force would like to try turning a multi-stall restroom into a gender-neutral restroom where all are welcome to use it.
“If we’re to pilot something like that, it has to be a thoughtful decision. Dr. Rule needs to know we’re charging down that path. But it is something that I want to consider,” said White. “I think my only concern is everybody needs to know what they’re getting into. It needs to be obvious that this just isn’t the men’s room, or the women’s room. It could be very uncomfortable for somebody to suddenly realize they’re not in a separate restroom.”
According to White, Highline Community College currently has at least one multi-stall gender-neutral restroom. As more time goes into planning the new bathrooms for BC, White will figure out how Highline is doing with their restrooms.
“Gender-neutral bathrooms [are] an ongoing problem that’s been heating up in recent years. It’s not new, but it is coming to the forefront faster and faster. The capitol team on campus is aware of it and is working really hard to bring them to campus. We’re all ears when it comes to trying new things. We can’t say yes to all of them, but as far as the signage goes, I’m still waiting to make a decision on a permanent sign. The two signs that have gone up are temporary and were put up by a contractor. I’m still eager and anxious to see the new designs,” said White.
“The task force is currently working to inform campus departments of the suggested sign in order to build community support for the new signage. A formal letter indicating this support for the sign is being drafted and will be sent to White’s office when the departments have had the opportunity to review and approve the suggestions,” said the task force.