Executive board members of the Gender, Love and Sexuality Spectrum of Baruch College have been advocating and planning for the construction of a gender-neutral restroom. The proposal has recently been approved by CUNY administration after a semester-long dispute with Baruch students.
Conflict arose when GLASS petitioned for the creation of the first gender-neutral bathroom at Baruch. Members of the organization were compelled to create a genderless restroom to better represent the students and educate them about the necessity of LGBT rights. Gabe Roman, current president of GLASS, detailed the steps the organization took in order to fight for the right to a gender-neutral bathroom.
“We tabled as often as we could, waving signs around the bathrooms and chanting ‘bathrooms for all’ and other slogans. This got peoples’ attention. They asked what they were, why we needed them, who would use them and how they would work. We made an animated video describing our message,” said Roman. The video features select Baruch faculty members who express their support for the initiative. The animated portion of the video illustrates an individual named Adrian who has difficulty figuring out which bathroom to use, on account of the fact that Adrian did not identify with either gender.
The video was circulated around the administration in an effort to help them understand why it was necessary to create access to a gender-neutral bathroom at Baruch. These efforts also demonstrated the student power behind the movement. Students began to extend support to the transgender community by expressing that they backed up the idea of a genderless bathroom.
The plan to build a gender-neutral bathroom is currently in effect. The challenges that exist at the moment revolve around logistics such as safety and choosing a prime location. In order to resolve these potential issues, the administration is seeking an area that will meet safety requirements and be located in a central and accessible area. Lobbyists have also been trying to acquire funding for the implementation of the bathroom, which is not yet under construction.
Assistant Vice President of Campus Facilities at Baruch Lisa Edwards has indicated that so far, $1 million has been donated to the installation of a genderless restroom. In response to the donation, Edwards said, “The funding allowed the universal restrooms to be added at the tail end of design to an existing Americans with Disabilities Act capital project. The design with the universal restrooms is now 100 percent complete and expected to go out to bid for construction in late fall. The search for other possible locations and funding continues with the rest of the campus.”
City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito funded the initiative after students expressed major interest in and support for the cause at protests and through social media.
The CUNY system has already implemented several functioning gender-neutral bathrooms across its institutions. These bathrooms are accessible to all students in each of these schools. John Jay College of Criminal Justice has created three gender-neutral restrooms in different areas on campus. Students at John Jay launched a website called Jay Pride, which speaks out for LGBT rights. Articles and discussion about the bathrooms, including layout schemes, are posted on the site. The Graduate Center also features a single gender-neutral bathroom on the seventh floor of its institution.
The Roosevelt House, a public policy institute at Hunter College, has published articles supporting gender-neutral bathrooms. Several initiatives and petitions to implement a gender-neutral facility at Hunter have been circulating around various social media platforms such as Facebook and Tumblr.
In order to spread awareness of their gender-neutral bathrooms, Guttman Community College posted signs near the facility that read, “Under the law, all individuals have the right to use this single sex facility consistent with their gender identity or expression.”
As developments for the gender-neutral restroom continue at Baruch, Roman realizes that the issue may still encounter intolerance and apathy.
To tackle any remaining opposition, Roman hopes to increase training for security guards so that they would be more responsive to the issue. Roman also intends to continue to spread the video in order to help other students better understand the purpose behind the initiative.
Although the campaign is already in motion, there is still progress to be made, according to Roman. “Even after we have a bathroom, our campaign will not be over. Our goal is to get as many people as we can behind the idea of the gender neutral bathroom so that our campus is a lot safer and a lot more comfortable for those that use the bathroom.”