GSA plans to expand unisex restrooms

IUS Horizon

The Gay Straight Alliance has been working on a proposal that will create awareness of gender neutral restrooms and add additional facilities on campus.

Hunter Luthi, informatics senior and GSA president, has been working for the last six months on expanding the gender neutral rest-rooms on campus. Unlike most restrooms on campus that are denoted as either “mens” or “womens,” the gender neutral restrooms would be open for use by both sexes.

Currently, there are four restrooms on campus that are designated as gender neutral: two in Knobview Hall near the Ogle Center and two on either side of the IUS Library coffee shop. All four of these restrooms are single stall.

“We want to raise more awareness about the fact that these do exist because most members of the campus community don’t realize they exist,” Luthi said.

Luthi said he would like to see the gender neutral restrooms expand to cover the campus more evenly. He has mapped out a proposal for one of the restrooms behind the IUS Bookstore to be declared gender neutral.

Unlike the four restrooms that are already designated gender neutral, this restroom has multiple stalls.

“People may not feel comfortable using that restroom if it is gender neutral but [having] one gender neutral restroom when there are restrooms available pretty much everywhere else on campus that are gender segregated we feel would be a big step,” Luthi said.

Bill Sweigart, associate professor of English and GSA adviser, said he was proud of the student initiative within the GSA for taking on this kind of project.

“My role, as adviser, is to keep encouraging them with the understanding that these kinds of things take time, often a lot more time than one anticipates,” Sweigart said.

The GSA is focusing on educating students and promoting change through the student body. Sweigart said this is a result of the group being full of very forward thinking people.

“This is how we make progress,” Sweigart said. “If we wait and do nothing, things won’t happen. If somebody takes action, at least the process is started.”

Luthi said part of the anxiety that exists for the transgender community regarding restrooms is the risk involved with going to a restroom denoted as either sex and not feeling comfortable there.

“People may not be able to use the restroom of the gender they identify with, or the sex they were born in either because of the fact they live their life as not that gender,” Luthi said.

Luthi said he estimates IU Southeast has a transgender community on campus of between five to ten students, but there could be more or less because there is not a clear way to measure the amount.

“One of the things with transgender students is that they don’t always wear a sign that says, ‘Hi, I’m transgender,’ so it’s really hard to identify how many transgender students we have,” Luthi said.

Luthi said the GSA hopes to team up with the Adult Student Center to add baby changing stations to the gender neutral facilities.

“That’s why we are focusing on not just the gender neutral aspect, but we are focusing on these restrooms being more accessible to everyone,” Luthi said. “[These changes] help to justify the costs.”

The costs of creating new restrooms and expanding the current ones have not yet been completely calculated, but Luthi said he does not expect them to be high. The main physical changes will be adding a lock to the restrooms, changing signs to denote gender neutral and adding baby changing stations.

Part of the GSA’s proposal is to raise awareness of LGBT issues on campus and raise awareness of the facilities that IU Southeast already has for these students.

“At first, this is a matter of conciseness raising,” Sweigart said. “It’s that not knowing, not understanding, just not grasping the significance of [this project]. This just isn’t about bathrooms so much. It’s about the [part of the] population that would want and desire that change in order for the awareness of gender issues and the prejudice[s] that people hold around gender difference.”

By HANNA WOODS

Staff

hrwoods@umail.iu.edu