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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Normalize gender-neutral restrooms

Designed by Jennifer Wu
Designed by Jennifer Wu

UC system to expand access for transgender students

To most, the choice is intuitive: either the stick figure with a dress or the one without a dress. However, this choice was not so simple for 16-year-old transgender student Gavin Grimm.

With the principal’s permission, Grimm used the boys’ restroom at his high school in Gloucester, Virginia for months until complaints began flooding into school board meetings about a “girl” using the boys’ room. After eventually being denied access to the boys’ bathroom, Grimm sued the Gloucester County Public School District, and his case worked its way up to the U.S. Department of Justice this year.

In June, the Department of Justice ruled that denying Grimm access to the bathroom of his choosing violated Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded program. After this ruling, Title IX was reinstated to include the protection of students’ right to use the restroom that matches their gender identity.

To give equal access to restrooms and to ensure the safety and comfort of all University of California (UC) students, UC President Janet Napolitano issued a directive on June 10 requiring all single-stall restrooms on every UC campus to be converted to gender-neutral ones by Feb. 28, 2016. Additionally, all new buildings and ones undergoing major renovation must include gender-neutral restrooms and changing rooms starting July 1, 2016.

Following former UC President Mark Yudof’s example, Napolitano created her own LGBT Advisory Group to directly examine any issues in the community that must also be addressed within the UC system.

The Editorial Board stands by Napolitano’s initiative to create a more inclusive campus environment for all non-cisgender students. No matter what the pronoun – he, she, they or otherwise – all people need access to a bathroom where they feel safe in order to equally participate in school, work and society.

According to the LGBTQIA Resource Center’s (LGBTQIARC) website, UC Davis currently has over 50 gender-inclusive bathrooms on campus. These bathrooms are in locations ranging from the Activities and Recreation Center to Aggie Stadium to various lecture halls. We believe that although they are present, these rooms remain spaces that many transgender students feel uncomfortable entering.

With the plan to require all new buildings and ones undergoing renovation to include gender-neutral bathrooms, we hope the current renovation of the Memorial Union will bring at least a few gender-neutral rooms to the central area of campus. This development would save any non-cisgender students from having to trek across campus to a bathroom that is out of their way in order to feel at ease.

In addition to planning for more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, there is also a demand for enhanced services from the LGBTQIARC. Although the center provides a multitude of services, programs and events to help LGBTQIA students feel more welcoming, providing further outreach and promotion of issues – such as a lack of equal access to bathrooms on campus – is crucial in order to properly avoid a situation similar to Gavin Grimm’s.

Not only should the LGBTQIARC expand its outreach, but UC Davis as a community must further educate and promote awareness over topics that affect transgender persons more heavily than their cisgender peers.

Some staff, administrators and faculty within the UC system include their preferred gender pronouns (PGPs) when signing off on emails, bringing attention to these topics. The Editorial Board commends those who opt to include their PGPs in emails and urges more administrative members to use this method to show students and other faculty the importance of gender identification in the community.

Why is Gavin Grimm’s case so important? Title IX came into effect in 1972, and 43 years later, many people are newly aware that there is such a law. It has taken over four decades and thousands of transgender persons around the U.S. denied access to restrooms (and worse) in order for us to properly grasp that this topic is not a new one.

Why does a trans boy in Virginia need to be denied access to the bathroom in order for this to be a relevant topic? Title IX is not a new concept, bathroom safety is not a new concept and stick figures on bathroom doors to denote which gender should enter a room is not a new concept – although definitely an outdated one.

UPDATE (10/7/15): All uses of the word “cisgendered” were changed to “cisgender,” the uses of the word “transgendered” were changed to “transgender” and all uses of the term “genderqueer” were changed to “transgender” to encompass the entire spectrum of identities that are not cisgender.


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