November 3, 2011

Students Seek Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

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The Student Assembly passed a resolution Thursday calling for the conversion of every single-stall bathroom on campus to a gender-neutral facility and prescribing the inclusion of gender-neutral bathrooms in all future University buildings. The resolution passed 26-1.The resolution is intended to be a first step toward addressing transgender issues on campus, said Nate Treffeisen ’12, LGBTQ representative at-large and a cosponsor of the resolution.“This is a stepping stone for not only the transgender community but the entire LGBT community to getting their voice recognized,” he said.Many transgender students face discrimination or discomfort while in bathrooms, said Trey Ramsey ’12, a transgender student and another one of the resolution’s cosponsors.“Something so seemingly simple as a bathroom could make someone feel uncomfortable,” Ramsey said. Talia Shear ’12, president of Cornell Union for Disability Awareness, was the third cosponsor of the resolution.The resolution also seeks to accomodate students with digestive diseases, families seeking diaper-changing stations and students not comfortable in public restrooms, its cosponsors said.Treffeisen praised the gender- neutral bathrooms in Mary Donlon Hall as accommodating for students with digestive issues.“The resolution creates a more private space for bathrooms and assists students who have diseases with symptoms that are uncomfortable or embarrassing in public settings,” Treffeisen said.Ramsey spent the summer researching transgender issues and their statuses on campus as part of an internship at the LGBT Resource Center. The issues have been neglected by advocates and the University, Ramsey said. “The University has not sufficiently addressed transgender issues. This is also due to a lack of visibility on behalf of the advocates.” Ramsey said.Treffeisen said he sees the resolution as a positive conversation starter for the administration and students on transgender issues.“This is an educational tool to open up people to new experiences and see why some people require different facilities.” Treffeisen said.Peter Scelfo ’15, the lone representative to vote against the measure, declined to comment.“It is a huge step towards creating a campus focused on equality and the rights of the whole Cornell community,” said Stephen Breedon ’14,  S.A. Hotel representative. Ramsey said that the resolution was an easy and inexpensive way to begin to address some of the issues that transgender students face.“It is as doable as possible for the University and does not retrofit existing bathrooms. It is as simple as changing the signs for single stall bathrooms,” Ramsey said.The resolution will now go before administrative bodies on campus, including the Head of Facilities, the Head of Residential Life, the University architect and the New Facilities Planning Board.Treffeisen and Ramsey said they hope to see the changes in place as soon as possible and expect a continued discussion of transgender rights on campus.“It is everyone’s responsibility to advocate for marginalized communities,” Ramsey said.

Original Author: Dan Temel