Residence Hall begins restroom pilot program
The Santa Clara
May 17, 2018
Adorned with small potted cacti on the sink counter and a message that reads “#GenderInclusive” on the mirror, Graham Residence Hall’s first-floor restroom welcomes people of all gender identities.
Launched last Monday, this gender inclusive bathroom is part of a two-week pilot period, with the long-term hope of creating more gender-neutral restrooms in other residence halls.
The bathroom consists of four full length stalls inside of the previously female restroom, while the first-floor male restroom is closed during the trial period. Those who use the restroom are invited to take a survey of their experience.
The people who choose not to participate may use the male and female restrooms upstairs.
Based on the survey results, student coordinators will make recommendations to the Office of Student Life about their thoughts on whether or not all future bathroom constructions should be gender-inclusive.
Jack Williams, a recent Santa Clara graduate, said that choosing a bathroom was a stressful situation during his transition. He feared potential repercussions for entering a gendered space.
“If there’s only two options and you’re kind of in between, picking a bathroom is terrifying,” Williams said. “I know when I was transitioning I thought, if I go into the women’s bathroom someone might think I’m a guy and yell at me but if I go into the men’s restroom someone might [also] get mad. If it’s a gender-neutral bathroom, nobody cares. Nobody’s going to be policing.”
Ashton Lester, an alumni and current manager in the University’s Controller Office, said he supports the initiative because it alleviates his stress about going to the bathroom and provides a healthy alternative for his trans brothers and sisters. He said that some of his friends would avoid going to the bathroom to prevent potential harassment.
Regarding the bathroom pilot, Williams said he appreciates the multiple stalls but believes the extra privacy of the full-length stalls is unnecessary. If all campus bathroom stalls were full-length, then he would be supportive.
To Williams, the extra measures to ensure privacy perpetuate a narrative that gender-inclusive bathrooms are a predatory space.
“If someone’s a predator they’re going to find a way to attack someone regardless of whether they can get into the bathroom or not,” Williams said. “For that reason, it’s good to destigmatize that space.”
Lester, on the other hand, supports the full-length stalls because it increases privacy.
In regards to existing gender-neutral bathrooms, Williams said they are “sequestered away,” meaning hidden and inconveniently spread out on campus.
Williams said that in his experience, the questioning of his gender occurred more frequently in the women’s restroom.
“There’s a lot more gender policing happening in women’s restrooms,” Williams said. “That’s because women are told if a man goes in, he’s there to attack you.”
Jasmine Lowe, a Community Facilitator for Graham Residence Hall and one of the initiative’s student coordinators, believes that as a Jesuit campus, students must use their privilege to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community on campus.
“I saw an extreme quieting and dampening of the LGBTQ+ voice on campus,” Lowe said. “I think it’s the obligation of people like me who have privilege for being cis and Christian to use that platform to speak out and stand up for this community because they are deserving of love, respect, care and dignity.”
Lowe said that the informational poster outside of the pilot bathroom explaining its purpose has been torn down almost every night.
Lowe explained that this backlash was unexpected as the preliminary survey regarding a gender-inclusive restroom received overwhelming support from Graham residents.
Amidst the vandalisms, the student organizers remain persistent in creating new posters and encouraging people to use the restroom.
Ultimately, Williams hopes these restrooms in Graham will help normalize the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms.
“Gender-neutral bathrooms are not that big a deal,” Williams said. “We just need to pee. We don’t need to take a survey about how wonderful our time was. Society needs to get over bathrooms as a gendered space just like clothes — it does more harm than good.”
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