When transgender and gender-nonconforming students held a First-Year Advocacy Board event at the LGBT Resource Center, they used the women’s restroom on the same floor as a gender neutral restroom for the evening. At that time, faculty at the center noticed hostility from older, cisgender female faculty toward the students using the restroom.
Kelby Harrison, the LGBT Resource Center director, and Michael Gorse, the LGBT Resource Center supervisor, brought this to the attention of Title IX when they realized it was a compliance issue.
“Title IX received reports that transgender and gender nonconforming students did not have an easily accessible all-gender bathroom near the LGBT resource center,” said Gretchen Means, the executive director and coordinator of Title IX in an email to the Daily Trojan. “The closest all-gender restrooms to the Student Union are in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center and in Bovard. Both required a 15-minute round-trip walk, and sometimes were not open. This created a barrier for students accessing the center’s resources and programming.”
The administration first switched all of the single-stall restrooms to all-gender restrooms. However, there were still spots where restrooms were not accessible to transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. This is because in most of the buildings already constructed on campus there are only multi-stall restrooms, and switching these facilities into gender neutral facilities is much more difficult, according to Harrison.
This prompted the LGBT Resource Center to collaborate with the Title IX Office of Equity and Diversity to establish the first multi-stalled gender neutral restroom on campus in the Student Union modeled after the United University Church’s gender-neutral restrooms.
Since transitioning to a gender-neutral restroom, the administration feels that it has made a positive impact on the transgender and gender-nonconforming students who frequent the LGBT Resource Center and the center itself.
“We’ve already had many positive reactions from gender nonconforming staff and students on its presence, that it helps them feel safer,” Harrison said. “A couple of different individuals have noted that it’s really helpful to them in their transition and that it’s been a powerful and positive experience.”
Transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals usually have to go to great lengths to safely go to the restroom. Some people will refrain from using the restroom throughout the day until they get home, or avoid drinking water when they go to public spaces, to avoid possible harassment when using public restrooms, according to Mary Andres, a professor of clinical education at the Rossier School of Education
Andres focused on these issues in her career at USC. In the past, she assisted transgender and gender-nonconforming students in making arrangements to use public facilities as a counselor at the counseling center. While working with these students, she noticed how mentally damaging these restrictions can be for them.
“It is tiresome and actually unhealthy for someone to feel like they don’t want to draw attention to themselves and not be able to just go to the bathroom when they want to go to the bathroom,” Andres said.
Mya Worrell, a freshman majoring in gender studies, identifies as agender and found comfort in the expansion of gender neutral restrooms.
Warrell said that in the women’s restroom they do not feel comfortable and in the men’s restroom, they do not feel safe.
“I love seeing a gender-neutral bathroom because it means that I don’t have to not go to the bathroom or force myself to go to a bathroom that makes me feel uncomfortable,” Worrell said.
In front of the gender-neutral restroom in the Student Union, there are fliers explaining the purpose of establishing the restroom for those who are unaware of the issue. Some look at the gender-neutral restroom as a foreign threat, but the LGBT Resource Center is making efforts to inform those people through the fliers, according to Gorse.
Worrell hopes that this expansion will inform cisgender individuals of the binary prevalent in most buildings and the necessity for inclusion in public facilities.
“I hope that, first of all, seeing gender-neutral bathrooms broadens their idea of the gender binary,” Worrell said. “I also hope that they realize that they can use gender-neutral bathrooms too, because gender-neutral bathrooms are for everyone.”
Harrison believed this expansion will help critics understand the issue and take part in creating a more accepting community at USC.
“I’ve seen the difference that inclusive spaces can make for people struggling to align their gender expression and gender identity,” Harrison said. “I think it’s healthy for all people to have a more complicated understanding of gender identity and expression, and restrooms like these help to expand that understanding and conversation.”