On One Hand

March 17, 2006

Gender Neutral Bathrooms

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 12:31 pm
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http://www.thecampuspress.com/culture/

Published in The Campus Press

Breaking down barriers -CU’s Transgender Taskforce working to desegregate more campus bathrooms
Matt Pizzuti
Staff Writer

Those who do not fit into the socially constructed roles of men or women wrestle with gender constantly.

Commodities and clothing are divided into “for boys” and “for girls” forms, while lifestyle and behavioral expectations are determined from birth. Many who do not fit the framework of these polar genders are left wondering what to wear, how to identify and with which group to associate.

CU’s Transgender/Genderqueer taskforce hopes to tackle gender segregation where the sexes are the most blatantly divided: public bathrooms. The group hopes to soon begin discussions with UMC administrators to make some of the building’s restrooms gender-neutral.

Kat Roscoe, a former CU student who is still active in campus groups such as Trans-Form and United Ministries of Higher Education, identifies as bi-gendered and says she was anxious using women’s bathrooms because of her masculine appearance.

“I worry about other people when I go to the bathroom. I used women’s bathrooms and always wondered if they would think I was a guy and how they would feel,” Roscoe said.

She said she has used both men’s and women’s bathrooms, but prefers the unisex bathrooms available on campus.

“I use the non-gendered bathroom in Willard, and I appreciate it,” Roscoe said.

Several buildings on campus already have single-stall, unisex bathrooms, but the taskforce hopes to convert some divided bathrooms into unisex bathrooms in the UMC.

“There’s currently one bathroom in the basement of the UMC that is not a gendered space,” said Jennifer Simpson, coordinator for Student Affairs. “Having one, out-of-the-way bathroom is first, not very utilitarian, and second, doesn’t do anything to change the culture.”

Simpson said the advantage of gender-neutral bathrooms is not only in their convenience for transgendered people, but also for their ability to get people thinking about gender.

“I think the short-term goal is to create conversation,” Simpson said.

Simpson said there has been some opposition to the process of converting bathrooms.

“My experience tells me that whenever you propose change, particularly change that challenges the way the world works, there is going to be opposition and people are going to ask questions,” Simpson said.

Simpson said that opposition does not come from any specific organization or group.

She also said the cost of changing an existing bathroom to unisex is only “the price of a new sign.”

Roscoe explained her own take on the opposition.

“I feel like there are opponents out there, but they are people who oppose the people who use the gender-neutral bathrooms rather than the concept itself,” she said.

Some students on campus described mixed feelings about the matter, saying that some bathrooms could become unisex but not all of them should.

“Everyone on this campus should be adults. It shouldn’t be a big deal to have unisex bathrooms,” said Dan Scelza, a sophomore communication major.
But he also said that unisex bathrooms could cause inconvenience for women.

“I think a lot of girls wouldn’t want to go to a bathroom where guys go. Guys’ bathrooms are a lot dirtier. I wouldn’t care, but I can see the problem from a girl’s perspective, knowing how some of our (guy) friends are,” Scelza said.

Ashlee Girardi, a sophomore political science major, also was not opposed to introducing unisex bathrooms into the UMC, but described some concerns. She said that girls’ bathrooms are “like a safe zone for women.”

As Girardi and Scelza said bathrooms would affect a lot of the CU population, those on the taskforce explained that gender roles and divided bathrooms impact more than just people who are seeking a sex change.

Roscoe said gender-segregated bathrooms are “making a statement about gender.”

“Separate-gender bathrooms bring up issues of the differences between genders and emphasizes them, and that is more likely to lead to emotional turmoil for everyone,” she said. “People should be able to feel comfortable around the opposite sex.”

Simpson offered what she called a “simple” definition of what it means to be transgender that expands it outside the medical definition.

Being transgender is when “the way you feel and the way you express doesn’t fit the stereotypes of male and female,” Simpson said.

Simpson continued, “It’s important to think beyond just transgender people as people who are undergoing surgery. There are a lot of people who don’t fit gender norms.”

Since transgenderism in itself can be hard to define, members of the community are hard to number, Simpson said.

“As far as who is out and trans and active in the community, I think the number is less than one percent” of the population, said Stephanie Wilenchek, director of CU’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center. “But in terms of who struggles with identity, I think almost everyone does, on some level.”

Roscoe said that the same could apply to all GLBT people.

“I honestly think the entire scope of the queer and trans community appreciates those bathrooms,” Roscoe said.

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