Gender-neutral restrooms in works

Gender-neutral restrooms in works

Gender-neutral restrooms in works
October 22
23:25 2014

Rhiannon Saegert / Senior Staff Writer

UNT plans to create 10 individual, gender-neutral restrooms to accommodate transgender students and students outside the gender binary by the end of winter break.

Restrooms in Willis Library, the art building, the language building and the music annex will be renovated and converted into single-stall, gender-neutral restrooms. Currently, there are 46 single-stall restrooms on campus, but they’re not always accessible. For instance, most residence halls have single-stall restrooms, but those halls lock their doors in the evening.

Transgender and Intersex Alliance of Denton president A.J. Aguinaga said the lack of restrooms accessible to transgender students is at best aggravating and at worst a threat to their personal safety, potentially forcing students to explain themselves to strangers, out themselves as transgender and open themselves up to harassment. 

“If I’m a trans student, maybe people can’t read the gender that I am, and I don’t go into the restroom for the gender someone thinks that I am. It could be dangerous for me,” Aguinaga said. “If I’m someone who doesn’t fit into the gender binary, genderqueer, non-conforming or even agender, and I go into a restroom, it could be dangerous for me too.”

The National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2011 national discrimination survey reports discrimination by state. In Texas, 47 percent of the transgender people surveyed reported being verbally harassed or disrespected in a place of public accommodation or service. In addition, 41 percent of those surveyed reported being uncomfortable seeking help from police, and 23 percent reported being harassed by police officers.

“The reasoning behind why it needs to be an individual restroom that can be locked is because there’s still so much work that needs to be done with education and making sure that everyone understands the purpose of those restrooms and being comfortable with that for students to be safe in that environment,” student services coordinator Kathleen Hobson said.

Hobson said the restrooms are a big step in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go. The next big step for the task force will be UNT’s housing policies.

“I’m just stepping into this environment and thrilled there’s already a forward momentum on that, but it’s definitely not a time to congratulate ourselves and just sit back,” Hobson said. “It’s just kind of the tip of the iceberg for the things that need to happen in the future.” 

Director of facilities management and construction Helen Bailey said the budget for the renovations is $105,000. In some cases, renovations are as simple as replacing a sign and adding a lock, but others require more extensive renovations.

“What’s difficult about it is space and funding,” Bailey said. “Finding any places where we can feasibly put them is challenging. You’re limited with what you can do from a physical standpoint.”

Bailey said some of the existing restrooms aren’t very accessible or are remotely located.

“The idea is to provide a good spread around the main campus,” Bailey said. “You don’t want them to be on the periphery of campus. You want them to be where people can get to them.” 

Featured Image: TRIAD president physics junior Aiden Aguinaga discusses the possibility of new single-stalled bathrooms on Friday afternoon at Big Mike’s Coffee. Photo by Devin Dakota – Staff Photographer

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