The views expressed in this article are the views of the author.
Last year, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County made a big move toward LGBTQ inclusivity by opening up several multiuser all-gender restrooms across campus. This was a big deal to a lot of students, as this made inclusive bathroom options on campus more readily available. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to hold it when the single-use bathrooms in The Commons were occupied. The first multiuser all-gender bathroom was opened on the second floor of the Sherman building, with several others opening quickly after. One of those new inclusive restrooms can be found in the Performing Arts and Humanities building in front of the entrance to the music hallway on the ground floor.
While these bathrooms are extremely important for transgender and nonbinary students’ comfort and safety, there is one problem I’ve noticed: People still treat these new bathrooms like regular gendered bathrooms. The all-gender restroom by the entrance to the music hallway of PAHB is right across from the men’s room, and the sign is pretty haphazardly tacked over the women’s sign that previously hung next to the door. I’ve noticed time and time again that men will only enter the men’s room while women will typically use the all-gender restroom, making it into what is operatively still a women’s room. Even though the sign touts inclusivity, I still, as a trans person, feel discomfort entering that bathroom.
Let’s be honest with ourselves: When you have a gendered bathroom next to a gender-neutral bathroom, people will automatically associate the gender-neutral bathroom with whatever gendered restroom would typically be placed there. Because of this, you still have what is essentially a gendered bathroom situation, regardless of what the signage might proclaim. Men will go in the men’s room, women will go into what was previously the women’s room and trans and nonbinary people will still experience discomfort over which bathroom they should enter. Situations like this can be especially uncomfortable for students who are not out or are gender non-conforming. And while the problem is lessened by the signs, it still exists in practice. But how can we, as an inclusive school community, fix this problem?
Make every bathroom gender neutral. Or at the very least, don’t place a gendered bathroom right next to a gender-neutral bathroom. At least in Sherman, they’re on opposite ends of the hallway.
Now don’t get me wrong — I’m very proud of UMBC for making strides toward inclusivity. This is a huge step in making this campus trans and nonbinary friendly, and I know I, as a trans person, feel considerably more comfortable at this school with more bathroom options. But there is more that can be done, and it’s as simple as sticking more of these new signs over the old ones. So, why not go ahead and do that to every bathroom on campus? I would love to think that we have come to the point in society, especially on a college campus like ours, where we’re no longer weird about peeing next to someone who doesn’t present their gender in the same way as us. So let’s go stick up some new signs, join hands and pee together in perfect, gender-neutral harmony.
Written by Ari Page. Page is a senior pursuing an English major with a minor in History.