Gender inclusive restrooms; we all can do better

Getty Images photo by Mark Makela.

Getty Images

Getty Images photo by Mark Makela.

If you’re reading this, I’m going to make the assumption that you are human. You eat, you drink and if you do both of these things, you will have to dispose of bodily waste.

Whether the urge to use the bathroom is at home or in public, most of us don’t have trouble finding a place to relieve ourselves. Especially on Chico State campus, as there are more than 40 buildings that all contain at least one women’s and men’s restroom, if not more.

Cisgender people, people whose gender identities correlate with their biological sex, do not have to think much about finding a bathroom safe to use on the basis of their gender because the binary genders are already accepted within society. In fact, as a cisgender woman, I can personally say that I’ve never had to worry about finding and using a woman’s bathroom.

Saying this comes with privilege. For example, if I only have 15 minutes between classes to use the restroom, I can usually do so because a restroom I’m comfortable with using is only a few feet away. It might seem like a silly thing to be aware of, but the struggle of finding a safe and accessible bathroom is a real issue for many students at Chico State, and everywhere else in the world.

Since the topic of gender-inclusive bathrooms hit the limelight over the past few years, more places have been making these bathrooms accessible to those who need them. Chico State, so far, has done well in installing some of these restrooms, but there are only 11 buildings on campus that have a gender inclusive space for people to use the restroom. That’s roughly only a fourth of campus, and only five of those listed buildings are buildings with classrooms. The rest are places like the Bell Memorial Union or the gym.

Transgender and non-binary students and staff have a right to be able to use the restroom no matter what building they are at on campus. And they shouldn’t be forced to use a gender binary bathroom if they’re having an emergency or have too little time between classes to run all the way to the nearest inclusive bathroom.

Expecting this of trans individuals is dangerous and unnecessary. According to the United States Transgender Survey, nine percent of trans people have been denied access to a restroom, 12 percent have been verbally assaulted and over half have avoided public restrooms in fear of these statistics. This is very much a safety issue and now a human rights issue, as it is Chico State’s prerogative to ensure that all students and staff are able to use a bathroom and remain safe.

I do hope that one day there will be both accessible and gender inclusive bathrooms in each building. But for the time being, cisgender people can be an ally to the trans and gender non-binary communities when it comes to using their spaces.

Using the gender-inclusive bathrooms on campus is fine when it is an emergency, but we have so many more bathrooms at our disposal. I know the inclusive restrooms are nice and private, but our safety is not compromised if we make the decision to use the other public bathrooms on campus. There is no reason for these inclusive spaces to be filled with a line of cisgender people who can easily go somewhere else. We need to do better.

Rayanne Painter can be reached at [email protected] or @rayphenomenon on Twitter.