Adding gender-neutral bathrooms smart step

When lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues are discussed, there’s usually a heavy emphasis on popular topics such as same-sex marriage.

There isn’t, however, enough focus on details. One of which is the challenge many transgender people face when carrying out daily tasks like using the restroom.

USC is home to a number of transgender students, yet few facilities accommodate them. Vincent Vigil, director of the LGBT Resource Center, said in a recent interview with the Daily Trojan that there have been 10 times more transgender students this year who have identified with the center than last year.

With this increase, USC should add more gender-neutral bathrooms to advance these students’ accommodation.

A gender-neutral restroom is a single-stall room that usually bears both the male and the female symbols on the door. To date, 12 USC buildings offer gender-neutral restrooms, yet none are located in a central dormitory location.

The new restroom in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center is a start, but widespread additions are still needed.

USC has been fortunate enough not to have any reported incidents of violence against transsexual students who enter into gender normative restrooms, but violence has been reported in other schools. Documentaries such as Toilet Training outline the discrimination transsexual students face in school settings and uses real stories of transsexuals who have been harassed, beaten or arrested for trying to use the bathroom.

According to a study by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, 500 people reported issues with going to the bathroom in San Francisco alone. This is a real issue that shows real pain and inequality.

Though nothing has happened at USC up to this point, the possibility of violence always exists and the university must take preventative action to keep violence and discrimination from occurring.

Legally speaking, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires at least one solitary restroom for patrons with disabilities in each new building.

Along these same lines, the addition of at least one gender-neutral restroom in each USC building or facility would benefit a wide array of individuals. This includes transgenders, gender non-conforming people or even those who might not feel comfortable using a restroom that classifies them according to gender.

USC has made progress, but it must never settle when there is the possibility for more change. One small step could lead to a variety of benefits; one day we have gender-neutral restrooms, the next we might have gender neutral housing options.

With USC’s inclination to innovate, gender-neutral bathrooms would seem like a small step to a larger movement of advancement.

Above all, the issue calls for empathy among the student body. It’s devastating that such a mundane task such as using the restroom could be potentially dangerous to someone’s physical and mental health.

We often do see the big issue, and in this case, it’s gay rights. But there are still smaller issues affecting groups that go unnoticed. It is time for equality. It is time to deviate from the societal tendency to label a person as male or female and to instead take into consideration that there is a significant population of people who might not identify with either of those gender constructs.


Mellissa Linton is a sophomore majoring in English literature. Her counterpoint runs Fridays. 

4 replies
  1. Bruce S.
    Bruce S. says:

    I join those 500 people reported by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission who had “issues with going to the bathroom in San Francisco.” I would wonder what sick, mutilated freak-of-nature was standing or squatting next to me. These tragic figures and their profound sexual confusion now ask us to join them and confuse the entire society.

  2. Matt
    Matt says:

    I consider myself gender-void. I do not like to be lumped with transgender people. Can I have my own bathroom too?

  3. marie
    marie says:

    @stanley Harris , i do not agree with this part “or want to change their bodies so that they can pass as heterosexual to avoid homophobia and heterosexism” , do you really think that changing their bodies is less suffering than being gay ? , i really do not know what to say but i will refer you to an episode of “the family guy” the famous cartoon , there is a guy asking his father : father everyone say you are gay ,are you a gay , tell me the truth .
    His father: no son i am not gay , you have my word
    the guy: oh , thanks god
    his father: but i am a woman trapped in a male body and i will go for sex reassignment surgery
    the guy : come on dad , just be a gay ! .

  4. Stanley Harris, MD DFAPA
    Stanley Harris, MD DFAPA says:

    The author advocates for more unisex bathrooms for transgender and transsexual students in a way that blurs important definitions and distinctions.

    “Transgender” refers to personal gender identity somewhere on the continuum between feminine and masculine, and may or may not be visible to others. We have all seen actors change their gender-stereotypical behaviors as needed for the characters they portray. We often modify our behaviour and play roles that help us be successful in diverse social situations, including the use of public restrooms, without sacrificing personal integrity.

    “Transsexual” refers to someone who uses attire, hormones and/or surgery to change physical appearance to become congruent with a gender identity that is the opposite of their sex at birth. They generally want to use the bathroom designated their new sex.

    The author contends that “trans” issues are “gay rights” issues. Though transgender and transsexual people’s issues are generally supported by gay, lesbian and bi people; “trans” issues may not always be “gay rights” issues. “Trans” issues are gender issues, which may differ from sexual orientation issues. Transgender and transsexual people may be heterosexual, or want to change their bodies so that they can pass as heterosexual to avoid homophobia and heterosexism. They may be opposed to gay rights.

    The author notes that more students are identifying as trans, without distinquishing whether these students are transgendered or transsexual, or giving the numbers involved. In addition, what are the sexual orientations, preferences and needs of these students? What do they want USC to do to be more supportive of their personal and educational development? This complex issue may need more than building additional unisex restrooms.

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