Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Students strive to get more gender neutral bathrooms on campus

Julie Pike

Posted on December 10, 2016 in News
By USM Free Press

Julie Pike, Free Press Staff

USM has only a limited number of gender-neutral bathrooms on its three campuses. Gender-neutral bathrooms are important to have to provide a safe and accommodating bathroom for all students. There are several locations on the Portland and Gorham campuses that students can find a gender-neutral bathroom, which includes any single-stall bathroom. However, not every location has a gender-neutral option. Students who are looking to use a safe, gender-neutral bathroom often have to go out of their way or even to another building to find one.

“Many of the bathrooms are hidden away in various buildings around campus and you wouldn’t know where they are unless someone had shown you in the past or you did some research on it,” said Aidan Campbell, the student chair of the Gender Diversity Advisory Council.

All residence halls on the Gorham campus have at least one gender-neutral bathroom, but some students have to leave their own floor to be able to use the bathroom. To meet the needs of all students, the CSGD is working on several projects to create safe and accommodating bathrooms.

Sarah Holmes, the assistant dean of students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator, is at the head of a project, which is scheduled to take place over winter break, to change the signs of USM’s gender-neutral bathrooms.

“The CSGD is working with Facilities Management on a re-signage project, creating new signage for all of the gender neutral bathrooms to make them clear to students,” Holmes stated.

The new signs for the gender-neutral bathrooms will be changed to say “All-Gender Bathroom.” Holmes stated that the language is specific and intentional to include all students. Campbell is also a part of the new signage project, which he stated will involve going around campus and getting an updated count on the number of gender-neutral bathrooms at USM. The CSGD has also been working with Nancy Griffin, the vice president for Enrollment Management, and Buster Neel, the Interim Chief Business Officer, about renovating the Woodbury Campus Center to include a gender-neutral bathroom.

The closest gender-neutral bathroom to Woodbury is in Wishcamper Center.

“Having that option in Woodbury would be a great step in creating a safe and inclusive space,” Campbell stated.

Molly Roberts, a student at USM and the president of the Queer Straight Alliance, has been working with Student Body President Humza Khan on this project.

Roberts stated that the bathroom would be located between the male and female bathrooms, where a janitor’s closet currently is.

“It’s important for all kinds of people to have a gender neutral bathroom, people who are gender nonconforming, transgender and people who don’t want to feel like they have to pick one or the other, because not everyone fits in a box like that,” Roberts stated.

Campbell stated that many students have come forward asking for a gender-neutral bathroom in Woodbury.

“In order for students to find a place that they feel safe, where they’re not going to get funny looks for using a bathroom or get questioned about whether or not it’s appropriate for them to be in that particular gendered bathroom, they have to leave the building and go across the street,” Holmes stated.

Roberts also mentioned that the CSGD will be hosting a forum, set to take place in the spring semester, in the amphitheater in Woodbury Campus Center for students to talk about other places where they would like to have a gender-neutral bathroom.

“In infrastructure USM is not accommodating to people who need a gender neutral bathroom, but there are people who are actively interested and involved in changing that,” Roberts stated. “Administration is being welcoming and accommodating to hearing new ideas.”

Holmes stated that the CSGD is also looking to designate a few bathrooms in the Glickman Library as gender neutral.

“This would provide access to safe and accessible bathrooms for our students and to help send a message that all of our students are important,” Holmes stated.

Holmes stated that any new buildings constructed at USM will include gender-neutral bathrooms.

“Part of university law is that we will not discriminate against people based on their gender,” Holmes said.

Aside from the many projects the CSGD is working on to make the bathrooms at USM more accommodating, another big aspect of their work is educating students.

“In our society and culture we operate under the idea that there are only two genders and that we live in a binary world,” Holmes stated. “However the work that we do in the CSGD helps to educate the campus community about the diversity of gender identities and gender expression.”

“Having gender neutral bathrooms available is important for the growth and inclusion of all students here at USM,” Campbell stated. “It is important that all students feel safe on campus and having gender neutral bathrooms will provide that feeling of safety for many students.”

“The more that we can educate our campus community about the reality and the daily lives of all of our students, the better the community can be,” Holmes said.

A full list of all of USM’s gender-neutral bathrooms can be found on the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity’s (CSGD) page on the USM website.

  • Anonymous

    Just put in all urinals. Problem solved. Private.

  • Jm

    I believe that they still need to maintain same sex facilities in equal number to the nuetral gender bathrooms as well. For those students or staff that are not willing or feel comfortable in same mixed sex bathrooms. Just my opinion. I would not feel comfortable using a bathroom while a man was in the stall next to men.