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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Flushing gendered restrooms

    Early last month, the University of Houston-Downtown unanimously voted to make several bathrooms on campus gender-neutral, making it the first college in Texas to do so, according to the Houston Press. These public restrooms can be used by anyone, regardless of their gender identity or expression.

    Following the example of Ohio State University, which is incorporating gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, New Mexico State University is encouraging that such facilities be placed in all new and renovated buildings. Arizona State University and the University of Colorado-Boulder have also included gender-neutral bathrooms on their campuses.

    The UA is at the forefront of this progressive movement with a number of gender-neutral bathrooms already on campus, and further progress seems to be right around the corner.

    The Associated Students of the University of Arizona is currently considering an initiative to make the locations of these gender-neutral bathrooms better-known by marking them more clearly.

    I was very surprised to find that gender-neutral bathrooms exist on campus, and I doubt many others are aware of them.

    Through this initiative, the UA has the opportunity to further promote a welcoming environment for all students.

    Signs around campus would increase awareness about gender-neutral restrooms so that campus community members know all of their options. As a result, any stress or anxiety associated with finding a comfortable environment would dissolve.

    People whose gender identity matches the sex they were considered at birth may take for granted the commonplace action of using a public restroom.

    However, transgender students do not always have this luxury, and many experience severe stress, anxiety and sometimes even harassment in a bathroom setting. If an individual does not fit into the socially constructed idea of a “man” or “woman,” they can be met with hostility because others are ignorant.

    The numbers reflecting transgender violence in our society are startlingly high and reflect a very real and significant issue.

    Basic Rights Oregon reported that of the 6,000 people who participated in the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, over 50 percent “reported experiencing harassment in public accommodations” — defined as locations such as bathrooms, hotels and restaurants — while “10 percent reported being physically attacked.”

    The pain and fear that results from this unfortunate yet very real risk has the potential to derail academics and could negatively affect one’s emotional, physical and academic state.

    Imagine waking up knowing that, without a doubt, where you relieve yourself will be a source of stress. No one should have to experience this fear or discomfort, especially not on a campus that upholds a “policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of gender identity,” according to the UA’s Statement on Restroom Access.

    Remmy Ruiz, a psychology sophomore who identifies as transgender, addressed the worries and potential risks that transgender students face when gender-neutral bathrooms are not an option.

    “Transgender females to males look very masculine on the outside. Someone is going to pepper spray the hell out of me one day and it doesn’t matter what biological gender I am, what I identify as is who I really am,” he said. “For that reason, I am putting myself in an at the very least awkward and at the very most dangerous situation.”

    Last year, the UA announced its plans to introduce a transgender studies minor in the fall of 2014, according to the College Fix. While our institution clearly values a rich and diverse education for all students, I hope to see this same commitment made to the goal of establishing a system of facilities that are inclusive and easily accessible for all students, faculty, staff and visitors.

    — Shelby Thomas is a sophomore studying family studies and human development and Spanish. Follow her @shelbyalayne

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