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Breaking the Bathroom Boundaries

CSUN’s University Student Union took some steps forward recently, in terms of equality and inclusion, by installing two gender-inclusive restrooms in the Oasis Wellness Center.  Now some students are saying it is not enough.

The restrooms serve as the only gender-inclusive restrooms on a campus with a student population of over 40,000.

“I didn’t even know we had gender inclusive restrooms at the Oasis Center until last week,” said Alex Soto, president of Gamma Rho Lambda. “Having gender-inclusive bathrooms really helps me feel better about my self-esteem and my identity.”

To some, the idea of going into a gendered bathroom can be intimidating. The Williams Institute found that 70 percent of transgender and gender non-conforming respondents experienced harassment at least once while using public restrooms.

“So many times I go into the female restroom, and it’s like ‘What are you?’” Soto said. “You know, ‘What kind of creature are you?’ It almost seems that way. I don’t fit into either binary.”

Soto said implementing more gender-inclusive restrooms throughout all 29 on-campus buildings would alleviate the stress felt by many in the trans community.

“It’s about comfort and personal safety,” said Nia Clark, a coordinator at Lifeworks at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. “A lot of trans folks don’t feel comfortable using certain bathrooms. Wouldn’t it be great to use a bathroom where you don’t have to worry about how you look to others?”

Clark said stereotypes often have a lot to do with the perception of who should and shouldn’t be in particular bathrooms.

“There is a negative stereotype about me coming into the restrooms, and doing inappropriate things with my body, or exploiting a young person, or being exploitive toward other women, and I think there’s this misconception right there: that when we’re in there, we are there to do more than go to the bathroom,” Clark said. “We use the bathroom for the same reasons everyone else uses the bathroom, and I think once people are able to actually get some knowledge about the community, they will understand why it is a necessity to have that bathroom.”

In August 2013, California Assembly Bill 1266 made it a state law  “that a pupil be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”

“This actually stipulates that legally young people, when attending school or in a school setting, have an actual right, a legal right, to have affirming spaces regardless of their gender identity or expression,” Clark said.

Educating people about the lives of the LGBTQ and trans community will make a difference in their mindset and eventually the policies surrounding large organizations.

“When I train people, what I say to them is … [to compare this issue to their] … college experience,” Clark said. “When young people attend school and don’t necessarily know what they want to study, there is a category for that: it would be ‘undecided’ or ‘general studies’.  So academia has an understanding that young people don’t necessarily fit into one category, or don’t necessarily know what’s going to work for them. And if the university can provide and accommodate for that, why can’t we do the same for where they use the bathroom?”

Freddie Sanchez, assistant director for the Resource Center at the University Student Union, said the USU is looking at what students need in order to be successful, and restrooms are part of that.

“I think we…have an ability to continue to work with our students to see what the needs are,” said Sanchez. “If we need additional gender inclusive restrooms and different facilities, that’s something that we would look towards to sort of change and implement, but there’s a process.”

Moderator: Jamie Perez

Anchor: Juaneeq Elliott

Producer: Jamie Perez

Social Media Editors: Ala Errebhi and Caitlin Pieh

Reporters: Noemi Barajas, Halie Cook, Juaneeq Elliot, Jamie Perez and Nicholas Seaman

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