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The sad state of gender neutral bathrooms on campus

Gender neutral bathrooms are a key amenity for transgender and non-binary people, who often experience harassment or even violence in gender-segregated restrooms. However, UMBC’s efforts to provide these resources for the students that need them have fallen flat. The current state of All Gender restrooms on campus is unacceptable.

The official campus directory lists dozens of gender neutral bathrooms in UMBC facilities, yet many students are unaware of their presence. As Skylar Pardue, a senior studying math, remarks, “There’s probably some [gender neutral bathrooms] in Admin on the upper floors … but only PAHB, Commons and Public Policy have actual ones that students can use easily.”

Noting the disconnect between the official UMBC report, student perception and reality, the LGBTQ Student Union has investigated every reported bathroom and has concluded that these bathrooms suffer from three key insufficiencies.

First, some of the bathrooms are not always accessible. For example, the bathrooms in the residential halls are, in many cases, behind doors that can only be unlocked with a Red Card swipe. This is universally true after 8:00 each night, when the outside doors for every residential hall lock.

The second problem the group discovered was that the All Gender restrooms that are on campus are inconveniently located. There is a lack of gender neutral bathrooms in the academic buildings on campus: the Biological Sciences building is the only building on Academic Row that has these amenities. The majority of academic buildings on campus, which house the majority of classes, do not have any gender neutral restrooms.

Buildings that do have these restrooms, such as those in the ROTC Building, the Alumni House or the Technology Research Center, are in obscure corners of campus. The vast majority of students will never even enter them, making their bathrooms inaccessible to many students who need them.

The final issue with the All Gender restrooms on campus is that many are in poor condition. For instance, the bathrooms in the Biological Sciences building and the Public Policy Building can be found only in basements and obscure corners, making many students wary of using them. The gender neutral bathroom in the Library represents a similar case. It is located deep in the basement, which is open for less than half the hours that the rest of the Library remains open. In the Performing Arts and Humanities Building, the gender neutral bathroom cannot even lock.

Out of all the bathrooms listed in the campus directory, the LGBTQ Student Union’s investigation found that only eight were in an acceptable, accessible condition for any student who wanted or needed to use them. These findings are a far cry from the university’s report and much more in line with the experience of students on campus.

UMBC Facilities was not available for comment.

The importance of gender neutral restrooms on campus is sometimes questioned because the number of students using them is seen as small. However, the LGBTQ Student Union reports dozens of members who need these facilities, which is but a fraction of the total number of LGBTQ individuals on campus.

Regardless of their number, why should any group of students be given unequal treatment by the university? As Harmony Richardson, a junior studying graphic design, asks, “[Why don’t] cis-folk … have to walk halfway across campus to use the bathroom in safety but trans-folk do?”