Matt Solowan, a Undergraduate Student Government diversity affairs delegate, believes every student, faculty member and visitor at USC should feel comfortable using the bathroom and has been advocating for more gender-neutral bathrooms on USC’s campus.
Gender-neutral bathrooms are often used by people who do not identify as male or female, by parents and caregivers whose children are of a different gender than they are and by people whose personal attendants or caretakers are of a different gender than they are. These bathrooms serve as a space for many individuals who have special needs or who are gender-nonconforming, featuring signage that uses inclusive language, not just male and female icons but signs that are void of any gender identity.
Only two of USC’s 78 buildings on the University Park Campus feature multi stall, gender-neutral bathrooms, according to the LGBT Resource Center website.
To assist these individuals, USC has been transitioning single accommodation restrooms into gender-neutral restrooms through improved signage. At USC, these bathrooms are located at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, the Engemann Health Center, Bovard Auditorium, among other buildings on campus. Associate Vice Provost of Student Affairs Timothy Bessolo noted that this action has been essential to fostering an inclusive and safe campus environment.
“Over the past year and a half, gender-neutral bathrooms were designated and new signage was created with the help of the LGBT Resource Center,” Bessolo said. “The University decided to designate these spaces to ensure we were creating a welcoming environment for all students, faculty, staff and guests on campus.”
As a member of the Queer & Ally Student Assembly and the Diversity Affairs committee, Solowan has been working with his fellow delegates and student directors to raise awareness about this issue and create a resolution that addresses and seeks to resolve grievances with the current state of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
“Last year, QuASA made it part of their mission to get gender-neutral bathrooms on campus and gender-neutral housing spaces in residence halls,” Solowan said. “While they were successful in getting the conversation about these important resources started, there is still quite a ways to go before our campus is 100 percent gender-inclusive.”
Solowan is looking particularly at what other college campuses are doing, in order to see what resources would be reasonable to request from the University.
“On the Diversity Affairs committee, we are researching what gender-neutral resources are available at other college campuses, working on a list of resources we would like to see implemented here at USC, and hopefully presenting those ideas to the administration,” Solowan said.
Solowan, who frequently uses gender-neutral restrooms since he does not always feel comfortable using gender-segregated ones, felt that there is much more work that needs to be done to ensure that everyone feels at ease using the bathroom. While Solowan claimed that the gender-neutral bathrooms are well equipped, he said that the University has not constructed enough, particularly in residence halls.
“It is imperative for students who do not identify with either side of the gender binary or who may be in the process of transitioning between genders that there be somewhere for them to go to the bathroom,” Solowan said. “It is unfair to these students that they should have to search all over campus just to find somewhere to use the bathroom or that they should have to hold it in all day,”