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Opinion: Gender Neutral Bathrooms Highlight Successful Part of Renovation

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There have been many exciting changes to the Campus Center this year. One particular change has deeply affected the transgender and gender-nonconforming students at the University at Albany. We now have three gender inclusive bathrooms in the Campus Center.

One is located on the first floor between the hub and the Gender and Sexuality Resource center, one is in the basement, and one is near the Green Room. Speaking to students affected by these additions allowed them to share their experiences. The bathrooms have been met with overwhelming praise from UAlbany’s LGBTQ community.

Charlie Morrison, a sophomore at the University at Albany, commented, “For me, having gender inclusive bathrooms is a way for the university to say they know transgender people are here.” Later they added, “It makes you feel a little more safe knowing the administration understands that there are transgender students. Everyone deserves a bathroom.” Raven Evans, also a sophomore, shared a similar sentiment. “It’s really good that we have these gender neutral bathrooms, especially next to the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. It makes a lot of people way more comfortable just being out in public even-too have a bathroom that’s made just for them,” Evans said.

Scott Birge, Campus Center Management director, spoke on the history of the building. He also saw the necessity of adding more gender inclusive bathrooms. Birge indicated the Campus Center wanted universal bathrooms early on, and said, “This building is from the 1960’s. We can’t be living a 1960’s lifestyle.” Courtney D’Allaird, Gender and Sexuality Resource Center Coordinator, also seemed confident that new universal bathrooms would be built around campus. D’Allaird also stated that gender inclusion was always part of the renovations and cited earlier remodeling plans that included fewer bathrooms but a gender neutral locker room or a gender inclusive bathroom/shower stall.

D’Allaird indicated that the bathroom issue facing America is deeper than we realize. The center coordinator said, “It’s about gender inequality as a whole: the message that women are not equal to men and the idea that if men and women are in the same space men will be violent.”  They suggested that society’s discomfort with sharing bathrooms has to do with our perceptions of gender themselves: that they must exist and two isolated entities with two separate realms to avoid chaos. For instance, the sign on the gender inclusive bathroom still displays a man with a thick bar under it then a woman. GRSC is considering ways that the sign might be changed for the future. D’Allaird suggested ideas like the picture of a toilet, which would remove gender from the issue.

According to the New York State Assembly, there is currently a bill on the books that would require all single occupancy bathrooms to be designated as gender neutral. This includes public facilities like SUNY, CUNY, school districts, and state owned or operated buildings.

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