The Queer Resource Center is writing to address the article published on “gender-open” restrooms. We feel that the article is more reflective of the editor’s and author’s desire to finish the story than respect the voices of trans and genderqueer students of Lewis & Clark. We would like to highlight portions of the article that, intentionally or not, distort the issue of what exactly gender-neutral bathrooms are about.
To begin with, much of the language in the original article–only some of which has since been changed–is inaccurate. “Cisgender” is not a word that should be put in scare quotes, as if it were something made up. Bathrooms cannot be cisgender in the first place, being, after all, rooms and not people with genders. Terms that would have made more sense include gendered, gender-specific, and gender-divided. Although trans students, non-binary or otherwise, unquestionably belong in “men’s” and “women’s” bathrooms if that is where they are comfortable, gender-accessible bathrooms serve as an alternative to exclusive environments. Trans/non-binary students report alarming rates of harassment, physical assault and sexual violence in school settings, which is why gender-open bathrooms are vital to student safety. Gender-open or gender-accessible multi-stall bathrooms benefit the community by not isolating trans and queer students to specific designated facilities. Further, accessibility is closely tied to disability issues. A person should not have to search for where to relieve themselves during their day.
We are also concerned that, with the inclusion of only two interviewees, student perspectives on gender-accessible bathrooms and the history involved were not adequately represented. The QRC, Feminist Student Union and United Genders and Sexualities successfully campaigned with a petition last year, started by trans student Samson Harman (’16) and inspired by the QRC’s founders. The ASLC voted to approve a resolution in favor of creating more accessible bathrooms. Yet, efforts from the institution remained considerably slow despite successful club collaboration and years of queer students asking that their needs be met. Harman stressed that “The work is not finished. We should be asking ourselves why multi-stalled, gender accessible bathrooms are barred from the academic side, but are commonplace in the residential part? The mere elimination of a sign would not require a budget.” The Queer Resource Center staff met with the Associate Vice President for Facilities at the end of last semester and were impressed by his obvious good intentions. However, we take issue with the idea that gender accessible multi-stall bathrooms are impossible. We also disagree with the idea, which the article does not seem to question, that the only options available are single-stall “family style” gender-open bathrooms or gender-specific multi-stall ones. We are aware that there are laws requiring a certain number of gendered multi-stall bathrooms in the academic buildings, but it would not be a departure from policy to change or remove the signs from a few multi-stall bathrooms. Having one large, gender-open bathroom per floor would take comparatively little effort and would create ease of access to trans queer and disabled students.
We are also concerned the article does not allow the reader to view the map provided should they be interested, and more importantly, that the reporting fails to cite a single trans or non binary perspective. Although the two people quoted–one of them a member of the school administration and one of them a cis ally and former president of UGS who was very involved with promoting the petition last year–are both people whose voices are understandably included, it should be obvious that this failure leaves out an absolutely crucial point of view, especially considering that trans and non-binary students have been the most important members of this struggle from the beginning.
All of these issues could have been resolved fairly easily, with more time allotted for interviewing students, researching more accurate and respectful language, and for editing. Editors should not let time restraints affect the quality of their reporting or their representation. The Queer Resource Center is dedicated to supporting students and would be willing to offer oversight on queer articles at the Editor’s request. We hope that the Piolog will prove to be more thoughtful and deliberate about such articles in the future.
The Queer Resource Center