PASCIAK: The University should add gender-neutral bathrooms to first-year residence halls

Gender-neutral bathrooms would create a community of inclusivity and ensure that all students feel safe and valid in their identity

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Implementing gender-neutral bathrooms would create a much easier experience for both transgender and gender non-conforming students entering the University. 

Riley Walsh | Cavalier Daily

Nearly all of the University’s first-year dorms are separated by gender. Because of this separation, the transition into college can be made much more difficult for transgender and non-binary students. The University should add private, single-person, gender-neutral bathrooms into all first-year dorms in order to create a community of inclusivity and ensure that all students of the University feel safe and valid in their identity. 

Despite recent pushes from students in past years, there are still very few gender-neutral bathrooms anywhere near the first-year residence area. Ern Commons, the Aquatic Fitness Center, Gilmer Hall and Rice Hall are some of the few buildings with gender-neutral bathrooms near the first-year dorms. 

The implementation of gender-neutral bathrooms into first-year dorms would, firstly, create a much easier experience for both transgender and gender non-conforming students entering the University. Thesel bathrooms offer an opportunity for these students to feel that they belong at the University, as strictly one-gender bathrooms force students to label themselves as either male or female. This issue is especially important now, as the University expands and begins to admit more diverse classes, which likely includes members of the LGBTQ community. 

The University, especially recently, seems to pride itself on its inclusivity and diversity. However, it has failed to adequately address proposals from students for gender-neutral bathrooms, as the University still has yet to release a plan to implement these bathrooms in all first-year dorms. This is something that many other schools have already implemented. The inclusion of gender-neutral bathrooms in these dorms will enable to University to fully realize this goal of progressiveness and diversity. It will enable the University to further strengthen its commitment to ensuring that all students’ needs are heard and addressed.

Often, opponents of gender-neutral bathrooms cite safety as a concern for them, failing to realize that transgender men and women are often the ones who are subject to harassment and violence in public restrooms. As gender-neutral bathrooms provide for much more privacy, they provide more safety for transgender and non-binary students who can often experience harassment when using a public bathroom associated with their gender identity. It is important that students to feel safe when using the bathroom in their own place of residence. 

Moreover, gender-neutral bathrooms would also make it easier in terms of allowing access to bathrooms for parents and guests. During move-in weekend, countless parents had to look around for some random student to open the bathroom door, as students are only granted access to the bathrooms on their floors or, if their dorms have them, the bathrooms on the ground floor. Having these gender-neutral bathrooms will ensure easy access for all people into the restrooms, providing for more efficiency. 

Since many of the Alderman Road Residence Area dorms do have bathrooms on their ground floor levels, the University should work towards transitioning these spaces into gender-neutral bathrooms. This would likely be the most effective way to implement gender-neutral bathrooms as transitioning the larger communal bathrooms on each floor would be nearly impossible because of the size of these bathrooms. Again, adding locks and shower spaces into these ground floor bathrooms that are currently separated by gender is a renovation that the University should look into in order to provide a better experience for all students. In addition, they should then work towards implementing spaces like this in every first-year residence area on Grounds. This is something the University should consider for all future renovation projects in order to follow in the footsteps of many other progressive schools throughout the nation who have worked towards providing these gender-neutral bathrooms for the safety and comfort of their transgender students. 

The idea of single-gender bathrooms on each floor is simply outdated and inefficient. The push towards gender-neutral bathrooms has been happening for years now at the University. It’s now time for the University to act on these calls from students and make these bathrooms more commonplace throughout first-year residence halls. The addition of gender-neutral bathrooms in first-year residence halls can lead the University in the direction of inclusivity for all students, including those of the LGBTQ community and those students who are gender non-conforming. The University should work towards creating a better environment for all students, in order to better protect its transgender and non-binary students. 

Zack Pasciak is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

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