With UH-D’s transgender-friendly bathrooms, UH should follow suit
UH-Downtown has recently taken a big step toward equality on its campus. On Jan. 10, UH-D’s Student Government Association presented and passed a resolution which will allow for gender-neutral restrooms. This move is aimed at creating a friendlier environment for their transgender students, as well as any students that perhaps do not identify within the gender binary.
“One should have the opportunity to meet their basic needs, such as using the restroom without fear of reprimand, discrimination or adversity,” according to the Facebook page supporting the resolution. “For transgender and gender-nonconforming students, gender-segregated restrooms can be spaces where they are met with intimidation, harassment, run-ins with security and/or violence.”
The establishment of these restrooms is meant to create a safer and more comfortable environment for a variety of individuals, including “parents with differently gendered children, people who necessitate an attendant in the restroom who may be of a different gender, certain differently abled individuals, and trans* and gender-nonconforming people,” according to the Facebook page.
With the passing of this resolution, UH-D will convert a minimum of two multi-stalled, gender-segregated bathrooms to gender-neutral ones, which means that any person will be allowed to enter and use the facility.
Although this might seem like a small move, it’s important to note that UH-D is the first university in Houston and the second in the entire state of Texas to create gender-neutral restrooms.
With this in mind, there shouldn’t be anything stopping UH from following in UH-D’s footsteps. The idea seems simple enough — and it already seems to be having a positive impact on UH-D’s campus and beyond.
Kristopher Sharp, UH-D’s SGA Vice President, recently posted an email that was addressed to him from Jason Frankel, Chief Operations Officer at Frankel’s Costume in Houston. Frankel said in his email that he was inspired to re-designate his customer and cast member restrooms as gender-neutral after seeing a story that spoke of UH-D’s transition to include gender-neutral restrooms on campus.
“I saw the report on KHOU last night,” Frankel said in his email. “It made a lot of sense … Thanks for bringing this to light.”
Attached was a photograph of his newly labeled bathroom, which says that “At Frankel’s Costume Company Inc., we recognize the diversity of our customers and cast members. We have designated our restrooms as gender-neutral.”
Lorraine Schroeder, director of the LGBT Resource Center at UH, agrees that this is a positive move.
“I think it’s wonderful that UH-D is doing this on their campus,” she said. “It is a good sign that the UH System is living up to its gender identity and expression non-discrimination policy.”
UH’s students are diverse in a number of ways, but perhaps the inclusion of gender-neutral restrooms could be the next big step toward becoming a more inclusive university.
But this move would have to be initiated by a member of the LGBTQ community, said theater freshman Paige Zubel.
“I’ve seen before where institutions try and do something for the good of a specific group of people, and it turns out that that isn’t what that group of people wanted at all,” Zubel said.
For freshman Justin Nguyen, the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms seems like it could beneficial for trans* and cisgender individuals.
“I actually want unisex bathrooms,” Nguyen says. “I don’t feel like having to go scour the area for the men’s restrooms when the women’s restroom is right there next to the entrances and exits.”
Although this is not currently a topic of conversation at UH, perhaps UH-D’s transition will inspire and propel our own decision to move forward towards a more inclusive environment for people in the LGBTQ community.
For now, however, there are several single-stalled restrooms that are available to students throughout campus, a full list of which can be found on the LGBT Resource Center Homepage. UH has also written into its construction policy that all new construction must have single-occupancy restrooms on the lowest floor of any of its public buildings.
Opinion columnist Carolina Trevino is an advertising freshman and may be reached at [email protected]