November 21, 2003

Gender-neutral Bathrooms

A recent panel called for additional gender-neutral bathrooms in central locations on campus, such as Cobb Hall and the Regenstein Library. The panelists cited the need for an inviting space for transgendered students who feel uncomfortable using men's and women's restrooms.

Accommodating these students is not unlike accommodating Jewish students on campus by offering Kosher foods at Bartlett or allowing students to form student organizations based on any interest or group with which they identify. Transgendered students will inevitably have to use single-sex bathrooms outside our campus, but the University, as a community, can offer a relatively more sensitive environment while incurring a negligible cost to the student population. Making one or two bathrooms on campus gender-neutral would inconvenience very few people and make a world of difference to those transgendered students.

While we understand the importance of making students feel welcome—and endorse the creation of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus—we balk at some of the implications that have been ascribed to the cause, such as the "oppressiveness" of single sex bathrooms. It is important to keep options open for all students, including those who might feel uncomfortable in co-ed or gender-neutral restrooms.