Gender neutral bathrooms cause stir among non-binary students

artwork by Alexandria Brown '17

artwork by Alexandria Brown '17

Last semester, there was some drama surrounding the downstairs bathrooms in the library as well as some bathrooms in MacCracken.  Already all-gender bathrooms, some students decided it would be a fantastic plan to post signs on each bathroom door reading “Men” and “Women.”  This tomfoolery is problematic as it asserts gender where gender need not be, and eliminates any chance of bladder relief for non-binary individuals. So unless everyone whose gender identity/expression does not fall in to a neatly packaged box plans on using a bush outside the Esther Raushenbush Library, this unnecessary assignment of gender probably was not the most brilliant idea. 

Upon students’ return to campus after winter break, a Solstice miracle occurred! Signs were posted on each downstairs bathroom in the library, which indicated that the bathrooms are, indeed, for everyone – gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, etc. aside. This is a seemingly basic step, since it is obvious that gender should in no way play a part in excretion.

But the big question here, well, the two big questions here are as follows: What was the process of getting the politically correct signs?  Who initiated the process – administration or students?  And why were these signs even necessary?  Sarah Lawrence, like anywhere else, has strengths and weaknesses.  With that said, SLC is much more accepting of and safe for LGBTQ individuals than several other colleges.  We are known for being open to anyone and everyone, not despite of, but because of our diversity, specifically gender diversity. So why did people in our school’s community think that it is okay to assign gender to the bathrooms?  Is it a matter of education? Do they not know what they did was offensive?  Or did this incident occur because the perpetrators are insensitive and transphobic?

Emily Rogers ’15, believes that the process to non-discriminatory signage began with her, and potentially other students, reaching out to Natalie Gross.  After seeing the poorly constructed signs, made of printer paper and cardboard wrapped in clear tape and fastened to the bathroom doors with some sort of glue-like substance, Rogers knew it was time to call attention to this vandalism. Rogers removed the signs and composed an email to Gross, part of which read as follows: “I feel a student’s desire for ‘single sex’ bathrooms can be met simply by going to the upstairs floor of the library, and that this student’s forcibly re-gendering of the downstairs bathrooms constituted an act of transphobia, or an act against anyone who has every been told ‘wrong bathroom’.”

On October 16, Gross responded to Rogers’ email and confirmed that the policies on all gender bathrooms had not been changed, and forwarded the email thread to Paige Crandall.  Gross and Rogers discussed methods to stop this issue, which is where Rogers believes the idea for better signs began. 

“It was obvious we needed something, because people were taking it into their own hands to make signs that gendered the bathrooms” said Rogers. It seems as if Rogers and Gross played the largest role in attaining the appropriate signs for the library’s bathrooms.  This is a perfect example of students merely needing to speak up in order to see changes on campus.

“The signs were just an articulation of a preexisting policy, so they weren’t something anyone needed to really push hard for.  A lot of time, the SLC administration just doesn’t know that there is a problem in the first place. Sometimes, all it takes is one student sending a well-worded email that can act as a catalyst to set a policy change in motion” added Rogers.  

Well, you heard it here first – just like at the airport: If you see something, say something.  Despite intent, the act of gendering the all-inclusive restrooms was not a prank, but a low-grade hate crime. However, because of engaged students like Rogers, this issue was easily fixed. But, that does not make it okay.  It goes without saying that this kind of behavior is beneath us as a student body.  So, if you are uncomfortable with all-gender bathrooms, put on your climbing shoes and schlep to the upper level of the library.  Sarah Lawrence is a community rife with diversity, and it is our responsibility to create a safe and open space for each other, to the best of our abilities.  As a community, we should work towards that goal, rather than put our mediocre arts and crafts skills to use. 

by Sarah Simon '16
ssimon@gm.slc.edu

 

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