This February, many Lawrentians are working together in order to get at least one centralized and accessible gender-neutral bathroom in each academic and residence building. Gender neutral bathrooms are facilities that are not explicitly labeled for either men nor women.
“Gender-neutral bathrooms are the same as family bathrooms,” said junior Eli Massey. “Gender-neutral bathrooms are desegregated bathrooms. There are no rules about who may enter or how they must pee. Everyone is welcome.”
For the most part, most of the bathrooms on the Lawrence campus are segregated into men and women but that provides a problem for people who do not identify with those categories.
“Some students might feel some discomfort if they [do not identify] as their assigned gender,” said junior and President of Gay, Lesbian or Whatever (GLOW) Alexis Cuozzo. “A lot of times when you are gender non-conforming or trans-identified, there’s the risk of harassment and violence as a result of their bathroom choice.”
There are many stories of trans-identified and gender nonconforming students at Lawrence being shouted at or having to use the bathrooms either very late at night or during times when people are in class in order to use the facilities.
“Bottom line, if anybody is feeling uncomfortable using a bathroom every single day, then there is something that should [be done] about it,” said senior and Chair of Committee on Diversity Affairs (CODA) Shea Love. “Let me put it to you this way: If you walk into a men’s bathroom and you are not conforming to the visual identity that people put on men, then people will give you a second look or harass you. No student should ever go through something like that.”
For years, GLOW has made efforts to get people aware of the need to have more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, including public awareness campaigns, and Counseling Services made strides by adding gender-neutral bathrooms on their floor in the Wellness Center. However, Lawrentians have yet to make an impact on administration and campus life.
“As far as I know, and I could be wrong, students have been in talk with the administration for years,” said Massey. “For whatever reason, the actual conversion to gender-neutral bathrooms keeps being pushed back.”
This year, students on campus have created a movement in order to push this initiative not as an issue only for the LGBT community but as the Lawrence community as a whole, including both students and administration. GLOW, CODA and other organizations and students created a coalition in order to make people aware of the issue and its importance.
“People have reached a point where it is necessary for our campus if we want a respectful safe campus,” said Love. “It’s now getting this movement where we can put things into action.”
The coalition’s main goal in this movement is to have a centralized and accessible gender-neutral bathroom in every academic building, including Warch, and at least one in every residence hall.
“I do not think cost will be an issue. As far as we can tell, the implementation will actually be rather inexpensive,” said Massey. “There doesn’t seem to be any need to renovate or build new bathrooms. Rather, we will just put up gender neutral signs on a number of bathrooms around campus.”
Throughout the week, there will be a lot of tabling and informationals on gender-neutral bathrooms and why it is necessary to have them on campus, which GLOW has done in the past. However, students are taking things a step further by also encouraging students and faculty to sign a petition that addresses the goals that they would like to achieve.
“We wanted to amass more than 500 signatures and after the first day we received 450, so that means students are really interested,” said Love. These students plan to present the petition to President Mark Burstein during his office hours.
The group also plans on holding an event in the cafe in which they plan to show a documentary called “Toilet Training.”
“Toilet Training will give students the opportunity to hear some real-life stories of harassment that’s occurred as a result of having gendered bathrooms,” said Cuozzo.
The students heading this movement also want to ensure that everyone on campus is comfortable by ensuring that, during the next school year, residence halls make the decision to have certain floor bathrooms gender-neutral through a democratic process.
“We do not want to hurt one group in the process of helping another,” said Massey. “As we proceed, this is something that we should and will keep in mind and intend to be sensitive to the needs of all students, for example religious students, those that have been through sexual and/or gender-based violence, those with physical disabilities, etc.”
The students in this coalition are working hard to ensure that every student, especially those who are trans-identified and gender non-conforming, live in a campus that promotes safe space and, as a result, are working hard to create a solution for this problem.
If you would like to support this cause, you may sign this petition at their table outside the cafeteria all this week, by commenting with your name and year of graduation on the facebook event page, or at the following website: