Gender-Neutral Restrooms Have Safety In Mind

TransgenderATLANTA – Officials at the University of Georgia have designated a pair of “gender neutral” restrooms on campus, a change begun out of concern for transgender students but which they say will benefit others – from students with disabilities and medical conditions to parents of young children.
The single-stall restrooms are near the university’s gay student support center, where leaders hope the trend will expand to other parts of campus.
Michael Shutt, an assistant dean of students and director of the university’s year-old Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center, said the move came out of safety and comfort concerns for transgender students.
“Most of us very much take for granted that we can find a restroom and we don’t have to worry about anybody harassing us,” said Shutt said. “But there is always the chance that people can be harassed in restrooms if they don’t look like they fit the norm and there can sometimes be assault or abuse in those cases.”
“Transgender” is an umbrella term used to cover several different identities – from those seeking sex-change surgery to heterosexuals who feel more comfortable wearing clothing typical of the other gender.
Shutt said there is no way to know how many people in the university community define themselves as transgendered, but that he knows several transgendered students through the center.
The doors have signs with images of a man and a woman and are labeled simply “restrooms.”
Shutt said designating the two existing restrooms in UGA’s Memorial Hall was first suggested by students who attend programs at the center and only required asking the building’s management to change the signs on them.
But he hopes that as the university looks at expanding and renovating, more single-stall restrooms will be included.
University officials say they expect the changes to be welcomed by many students, faculty and staff – not just those in the gay, lesbian and transgender communities.
“I think there are lots of people who would be appreciative of that and for lots of different reasons,” said Pat Daugherty, assistant vice president for student affairs. “It’s not anything we’ve done a lot of studies on, we just try to meet the needs of our students.”
She said there already were several unisex restrooms scattered across the Athens campus, including at the university’s recreation center.
Shutt said the change will benefit “anybody with any type of disability or chronic illness that may either need a larger space or a space where they will not have to worry about other folks being in the space with them.”
UGA isn’t alone.
Other universities creating gender-neutral restrooms include the University of Arizona, which adopted a “Statement on Restroom Access” in June, and Harvard University, where a similar policy was approved in 2004.
Dozens of other schools have adopted restroom-access policies or are considering them.
from The SunHerald

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