Who Needs Gender Neutral Restrooms?
Traditionally restrooms are divided into Male and Female rooms, which contain multiple sinks and are subdivided into multiple stalls. This creates a public space, partially divided into semi-private spaces. For many, this lack of privacy is a problem. Nursing mothers sometimes need a private space to breastfeed or use a pump, parents of different sex children or different sex caretakers of the elderly or disabled need a space in which they can comfortably be together, and those with social anxiety or other conditions need more privacy than a traditional restroom can provide. Beyond these groups, transgendered people and others with non-traditional gender identities face a variety of problems in traditional restrooms. There are incidents of harassment, denial of use, arrest, and violence directed towards transgendered people simply using the restroom. Furthermore, there is the simple question of which restroom to use when you are female by gender but biologically male.
Why use a Gender Neutral Restroom?
A gender neutral restroom is a single-stall facility with a locking door. This means a restroom designed for a single person to use, with a single toilet and sink (and sometimes a urinal). Upon entry, users can close and lock the door, creating a space in which they have safety and privacy for the duration of use. For those with special needs, this greatly simplifies restroom use. To the transgender community, this provides even greater benefits. It eliminates the conflict between decisions based on sex and decisions based on gender, and protects them from many dangers or even simply being discovered (also called being "outed").
Recommendations for Gender Neutral Restroom Policy at UC Davis
There are a number of single-stall facilities at UC Davis currently labeled as male or female. The first recommendation for UC Davis is the conversion of all such facilities into gender neutral facilities, accomplished simply by hanging new restroom signs. Easy and inexpensive, this would be a significant statement of support to the transgender community, and would more than triple the number of gender neutral facilities here at UC Davis.
The next recommendation surrounds policy for future construction and remodeling. We would like to see a mandate for the presence of gender neutral restrooms in new construction and remodel. While at least one per building seems necessary, we would ideally like to see 1 or 2 gender neutral restrooms for each pair of traditional male and female restrooms.
Finally, we would like to see student housing create a formalized priority system for transgendered students' placement into appropriate facilities. Currently only Cuarto and Leech have true gender neutral facilities, though the LGBT theme floor will have a coed facility. Incoming students should be notified of a new system for priority placement based on need or desire, so that transgender students will know that stepping forward and talking to student housing will ensure adequate facilities. Without a publicized policy, transgender students may decide remaining anonymous is more worthwhile than a request that may be denied.