“(If) trans and gender nonconforming people don’t have access to educational space because they can’t go pee … you can’t learn, you know?” said LGBTQQA Coordinator Parker Hurley.
“It really does create a barrier to, I think, learning and being a part of the community in general.”
This past year, Guilford College created new gender-neutral housing and bathroom policies driven by new students’ requests, according to Coordinator of Housing Operations Maria Hayden. But because the policies are still being put into effect, getting information can be difficult.
“Talking with other trans people, especially first-years (it’s) like, ‘Yeah, apparently there are gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, but no one knows where they are or that they exist,’” said junior Niall Donegan.
In an anonymous survey I conducted of Guilford students, some respondents said gender-neutral bathrooms were hard to access, naming Frank Family Science Center and Founders Hall as buildings without enough bathrooms that are gender-inclusive
Of the 26 respondents who wrote in “Further Comments,” 15 requested more gender-neutral bathrooms.
Any single-person bathroom in the dorms is designated gender-neutral.
For the academic halls, the Diversity Action Committee and Queer and Gender Justice Subcommittee will soon put up new signs that signify which restrooms are gender-inclusive. In addition, said Hurley, there may be a map on the Bayard Rustin Center website that shows where the bathrooms are located.
Making new information available will greatly help students. In the past, finding which bathrooms are gender-inclusive has been a problem for trans and gender-nonconforming students.
Although the Guilford Student Handbook states that “Students are permitted to use the restroom in any residence hall on campus that they feel best matches their gender identity,” this such use may not actually follow in practice.
“(School policy) is probably not on most people’s minds while they’re using the bathroom,” said Madeline Putney ’12 in an online interview. Putney, who took classes at Guilford last year, suggested placing signs explaining the gender-inclusive policy on all campus bathrooms, which “would also increase trans visibility and awareness for the whole school.”
The new gender-neutral policies at Guilford may be an opportunity for community-wide education.
“I think it’s also valuable, whether this is a big initiative or not, for people who use gendered bathrooms to know why gender-neutral bathrooms exist at all,” said Donegan.
Two polled respondents said they did not realize Guilford had gender-neutral bathrooms. Two others expressed discomfort with having them.
This may signify cisgender people’s unawareness of the stressors that bathrooms can create.
“I’m not really an anxious person in general, but I don’t really think the average cis person can really imagine just how stressful it can be for some trans people to use a public bathroom that’s designated for one of two genders,” said Putney.
Having the option of gender-neutral restrooms accessible in all spaces can help create a sense of inclusivity for students.
“(A) gender-neutral bathroom is just a place where people can go and expect nonconformity, and it’s a space that is less likely to produce harassment in my experience,” said Donegan.
The Bayard Rustin Center will show the documentary “Toilet Training” on March 23 in Founders West Gallery and will also host panel discussions in March and April “just to provide that supplemental education … that cultural shifts require,” said Hurley.
And if we continue these conversations, Guilford’s culture will shift in turn to one safer for people of all genders.