February 26, 2016

Cornell Moves to Introduce Gender-Inclusive Bathrooms

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Single-occupancy gender-specific restrooms will soon become all-gender. By end of March, an online map will be accessible to indicate inclusive restrooms on campus, according to the University.

This follows a University Assembly resolution and President Elizabeth Garrett’s show of support. U.A. executive member Ulysses Smith ’14 presented the resolution and said that efforts to begin this process have been a “long time coming.”

“Our efforts were bolstered by the broader LGBT rights social movement and a number of initiatives on the federal level — including President Obama’s Executive Order 13672,” Smith said. “As a world-class institution, we should strive to be at the forefront of inclusion.”

The U.A. passed the resolution last December that called for the conversion of all single-occupancy restrooms from gender-specific to all-gender.

Garrett demonstrated support for the U.A. resolution in January by approving both the gender-inclusive restrooms and the Americans with Disabilities Act standardized signage conversions.

“It is extremely important that we not only encourage inclusiveness in our campus community, but also demonstrate it,” said Alexander Thomson, U.A. Executive Vice Chair. “No one should have to fear intrusive questions or accusations about their gender identity when they go to the bathroom, and we hope the addition of more all-gender facilities will help to prevent such uncomfortable situations.”

No one is forced to use the gender-neutral facilities, but its proponents are requesting the addition of a formal policy specifying that anyone can use their preferred facility without having to show proof of transition, according to Thomson.

“It’s amazing how something as simple as being able to use the restroom — something that many of us take for granted — can really impact a large group of people,” Smith said.

He added that the University should take increasing measures to accommodate the growing LGBT community on campus.

“We know that we have an increasing LGBT population, and we know that we have a large population of individuals with disabilities,” he said. “We have to continue to do our best to ensure that these and other populations are supported at Cornell.”

Brian Patchcoski, associate dean of students and director of the LGBT Resource Center, said this resolution is an important step toward ensuring equality not just for the Cornell community but also for visitors to campus.

“While this is [just] one step toward greater inclusion related to gender and sexual diversity, it is a step that we can take pride in while continuing to move Cornell and our policies forward,” Patchcoski said.