By the fall, Wesleyan will have a mix of new all-gender single-use and gendered multi-use bathrooms. After the trans* activism in the fall, when gendered bathroom signs were taken off most campus bathrooms, new all-gender bathroom signs popped up in many campus buildings (Exley, Usdan, North College, 41 Wyllys are the ones I noticed firsthand). By the end of this summer, “a new all-gender bathroom will be created on the ground floor of Olin, next to the existing men’s and women’s rooms,” according to University Librarian Pat Tully. “It is being created out of an existing custodial closet, which will be moved just down the hall.”
Physical Plant has gradually installed new bathroom signs across campus, and they committed to complete the installation before the end of the summer. Vice President for Student Affairs Dean Mike Whaley pledged to publish a list of the all-gender bathrooms online once the installations are done. According to him, “We actually have quite a lot of single-use all gender restrooms across campus, but awareness about where they are located needs to be better.”
On a related note, the fines paid by the trans* activists for taking down the original signs only represented a “tiny fraction of the total cost” of the new all-gender signs, according to Dean Whaley. And instead of paying fees, some of the activists worked to install the new signs. The gendered multi-use bathrooms will also have new signs that indicate where the location of the nearest all-gender bathroom is.
Below is the full memo by Dean Whaley and the WSA (originally drafted 11/20/13) outlining plans for de-gendering bathrooms and posting new all-gender signs. These plans should be completed by the end of the summer:
In order to better understand the issues about which they are concerned, I have had several meetings with some of the students who initiated the recent activism involving de-gendering restrooms in some of Wesleyan’s public buildings. I also asked Physical Plant to conduct an audit of current bathroom facilities in academic and administrative buildings, and to research relevant building codes related to bathroom designations. Below I’ve articulated a summary of the issues with de-gendering/re-gendering as I understand them:
- Gendered (those designated for “men” and “women”) restrooms promote a cis-normative binary that excludes and alienates trans* people
- The University’s attempt to meet the needs of our trans* population and visitors by providing “all gender” single-use restrooms is inadequate because they are not available in all academic and administrative buildings
- The locations of available “all gender” restrooms is not widely known
- Bathroom signage for single-use restrooms could be made more inclusive
- The current lack of signage on formerly gendered restrooms is confusing for some members of our community as well as for visitors
- Building codes are typically predicated on a cis-normative paradigm, and require gendered designations for public, multi-use bathrooms
- There are diverse and strong opinions about this issue among students, faculty and staff (issues include, but are not limited to, marginalization and violence against trans* people, impact to survivors of sexual violence and certain religious groups, and perception of sexual harassment, especially for supervisors sharing bathrooms with supervisees.)
Given the issues and constraints above, I propose the following solution to the de-gendering/re-gendering dilemma:
- According to the recent Physical Plant audit, 58 of Wesleyan’s 67 academic and administrative buildings currently have single-use “all gender” restrooms. The trans*-inclusive signage in Figure 1 [ed. note: The sign pictured above] should be installed on all of these restrooms (there are 173 single-use restrooms in these 58 buildings).
- In order to comply with established building codes, Wesleyan’s multi-use bathrooms should be re-gendered except as indicated in #3 below. The signage on these 136 restrooms should meet ADA requirements and each sign should also include information about the closest “all gender” restroom.
- 9 of Wesleyan’s 67 academic and administrative buildings do not have a single-use “all gender” bathroom. The most prominent of these is Olin Library. A project to create a single-use “all gender” restroom in Olin was developed last spring, and is awaiting funding so that construction can be completed in Summer 2014. Meanwhile, one of the designated multi-use “men” restrooms should be designated as “all gender” until the project is completed. Similar strategies for creating “all gender” restrooms in the remaining 8 buildings should be explored (along with temporary accommodations until these projects can be completed).
- A listing of the locations of Wesleyan’s single-use “all gender” restrooms should be published on the University’s website so that it is available for all members of our community as well as for visitors.
- Although restrooms in most residences are “all gender” (by designation or practice), the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee should review how these decisions are made by residents to ensure an inclusive process that meets the needs of all residents. The current practice in some areas of letting the majority decide marginalizes under-represented groups, including trans* students.
For further reading:
- “All Gender Bathrooms Now” – Pissed Off Trans* People on the DIY Gender-Neutralizing of Wesleyan’s…
- Liveblog: Open Forum on Gender-Neutral Bathrooms and Trans* Activism
- “Complete Bullshit”: An Update on the Trans* De-Gendering Bathrooms Situation
- Trans* Activists Face SJB Hearing Today
- Alums Circulate Petition in Solidarity With Trans* Activists
- University Reduces Fines Against Trans* Activists Amid Show of Force
- Newsweek: “Diversity U. Makes a U-Turn” on Activism and Ideals