Campus provides 44 gender neutral bathrooms
Josh Hartman / Sun Star
As of Feb. 13 there are 44 gender neutral bathrooms on the UAF campus.
Gender-neutral bathrooms are open to people of any gender. This type of bathroom benefits those who are transgender or gender nonconforming, parents with children of the opposite
sex and caregivers with have a patients of the opposite sex. Gender-neutral bathrooms are also generally more accessible to those with disabilities.
The World Health Organization defined sex as “the biological characteristics that define humans as female or male,” whereas gender is defined as “the socially constructed characteristics of women and men.”
Gender neutral bathrooms come in two different forms. Some are single occupancy or “family” bathrooms, while others might be bathrooms with many stalls with or without urinals that are marked as gender neutral.
All of the gender neutral bathrooms on campus are a lockable single room with the exception of one in the Fine Arts Theater which is part of a classroom, the theater’s the costume shop. This room does have two stalls in it which can be used by the people in that classroom. It is not, however, marked as a bathroom, according to Kim Eames, Department Coordinator for UAF Theatre and Film.
People benefit from having access to gender neutral bathrooms because under some circumstances they can be harassed or discouraged from using a gender specific bathroom.
This type of harassment occurs everywhere, including high schools in the city of Fairbanks according to Allison Brooking, a Wildlife Biology and Conservation student at UAF.
“I think that the gender identity thing is big,” Brooking said. “I have heard about people in Fairbanks schools who are transitioning that get in a lot of trouble for using the ‘wrong’ bathroom and that can ostracize them from society.”
This anecdote reflects statistics on harassment experience by transgender and gender non-conforming people. One study from Washington D.C. of transgender and gender non-conforming people shows this.
Seventy percent of survey respondents had reported being denied access, verbally harassed or physically assaulted in public restrooms. This data was compiled by Doctor Jody Herman, Manager of Transgender Research at the Williams Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.
Safety in gender neutral bathrooms is no different than any other bathroom, according to UAF Police Chief Keith Mallard.
The current gender-neutral bathrooms on campus are old gender-specific bathrooms that were re-classified. Any issues of safety are the same as they were before the bathrooms were re-labeled according to UAF Police Chief Keith Mallard.
“The only difference between a gender-neutral bathroom and the bathrooms that existed before is the sign,” Mallard said.
According to the Transgender Law and Policy Institute, as of 2012 there are 150 universities with gender-neutral bathrooms and that number is continuing to grow.
“It’s a good step toward equality,” Brooking said.