The choice between using a men’s or women’s restroom isn’t conscious for most, but an effort to provide gender-neutral, one-stall bathrooms in all campus buildings will help meet the needs of people with disabilities, parents and people with non-normative gender identities, a UT official said.
Linda Millstone, the associate vice president for the Office of Institutional Equity and Workforce Diversity, is leading the effort to ensure each campus building has at least one gender-neutral restroom for every five floors. Millstone said she went to the Building Advisory Committee with the idea to include gender-neutral restrooms in the blueprints of all new campus buildings, and they agreed. She said Pat Clubb, vice president for University Operations, agreed to fund the installation of gender-neutral restrooms in all existing campus buildings as well.
“Most buildings already have one or two single-stall restrooms, so it has been as easy as taking down the male or female sign and installing a lock on the door,” Millstone said.
Millstone said gender-neutral restrooms benefit a number of different people, including GLBT-identified persons, people with disabilities and people with medical conditions such as diabetes who need a private place to administer medication.
“If I am a woman in a wheelchair and my attendant is a male, where am I supposed to go?” Millstone said. “I identified this problem and immediately several committee individuals were willing to help with the project.”
Gender and Sexuality Center Director Ixchel Rosal said Millstone asked members of the center to locate all existing gender-neutral campus bathrooms. She said the list of restrooms is posted on their home page.
“It’s actually out-of-date,” Rosal said. “We went to every single building on campus and looked at every single public-access restroom. The plan is to update the list by the end of this summer.”
Rosal said the restrooms offer privacy to students who identify their gender in ways that may make using a men’s or women’s restroom uncomfortable or dangerous.
“If someone goes into a restroom and is not perceived as belonging to that restroom, they may be negatively impacted,” Rosal said. “These are issues of safety.”
Computer science senior Aria Bellows, who identifies as a trans woman, said she believes the enforcement of building gender-neutral restrooms is a breakthrough for the GLBT-identified community.
“I don’t typically use them myself,” Bellows said. “But for the life of transgender students on campus, they are very important. Some days you can be worried about how people will see you in either [restroom].”
Bellows said she normally uses women’s bathrooms, but the gender-neutral ones are helpful in situations that all students might face.
“They’re great if you need to change,” Bellows said. “It’s so much more convenient for people, and there are so many different reasons why you would like to have them around.”
Steven A. Kraal, senior associate vice president for the Office of Campus Planning and Facilities Management, said some buildings are not appropriate for the incorporation of gender-neutral restrooms. However, Kraal said he is committed to meeting the facility needs of as many people as possible.
Natural Sciences senior Chelsea Shipp said she really appreciates when women choose to take their young sons into the gender-neutral restrooms instead of the public women’s restrooms.
“I’ve seen women take 8-year-old boys into the women’s restroom, and it starts to feel very uncomfortable,” Shipp said.
Printed on 07/25/2001 as: Campus to offer gender-neutral toilets