All-gender restrooms: a student’s perspective

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Author: endever* corbin, undergraduate student

Have you ever walked by all-gender restrooms on campus and wondered why they are there? Have you been noticing this kind of restroom more and more these days? There’s a reason for that! In case you’re unfamiliar with this issue, I’d like to share with you a little about what’s been going on with campus restrooms and why it’s important to me.

In Summer term of 2015, PSU adopted an all-gender restroom policy developed by the Campus Planning Office in collaboration with the Queer Resource Center and the Office of Global Diversity and Inclusion. Since then, the number of all-gender restrooms on campus has jumped from 37 to 62; some of these are single-stall and some multi-stall.

For some background, you should know that as a trans person restrooms are an endless difficulty for me. Neither of the two commonly available single-gender restrooms fit my identity; entering either feels like self-invalidation. And strangers perceive my gender in so many different ways that I may be unwelcome in those restrooms no matter which I pick. If forced to use one I become self-conscious and incredibly anxious, avoiding people’s stares, remembering friends’ stories and national statistics: the U.S. Trans Survey suggests that 12% of trans people are attacked, harassed, or sexually assaulted in restrooms each year. I often intentionally avoid food and drink during the day if I don’t know whether there will be a restroom I can use, despite the risk of health consequences. Restrooms shape my access to public life: will the restaurant, coffee shop, concert, museum, shopping center, movie theater, doctor’s office, or place of worship I want to visit have a bathroom I can use? In a cissexist society, the whole world feels like a minefield of potential harassment and violence – with restrooms often at the epicenter.

I’m lucky to attend a school that has any safe restrooms at all, but to be frank, before the all-gender restroom policy was implemented there weren’t nearly enough available. Only some buildings had any in the first place – for example, it wasn’t practical for me to use the library as a study spot for any length of time because the only restrooms there were single-gender. Often I had to go out of my way to a building I didn’t even have classes in order to find a safe restroom. Half the time the single-stall ones that might be closest to me were already occupied, but there was only one multi-stall one available, farther away on campus.

For these reasons I was SO glad to hear that PSU had added more restrooms I can use! Already my school days are a little less complicated. I worried less when signing up for spring classes, knowing that it’s more and more likely my classrooms will be in buildings that do have all-gender restrooms. And even beyond the practical positive impact on my daily life, knowing that my school is consciously making an effort to create a safer environment for trans folks makes me feel more welcome on campus. I hope everyone will join me in thanking everyone who put these changes into place – their hard work is making an huge different in trans students’ lives.

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