By: Roxy Galychanivska
Since we were kids, we were always taught that we have to use a bathroom according to our gender. But what happens if you come in the gender neutral bathroom? Do you feel as safe and in a private space as you would in a bathroom for your gender?
Recently, on the Facebook page of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, after Mayor De Blasio’s post about New York people not getting their ID’s checked before using the bathrooms anymore, there was a big debate about the same sex bathrooms, or, what others call – gender neutral bathrooms.
While one side argued that people who are gender inclusive deserve privacy, too, the other side refuted, stating that now gender neutral bathrooms will be unsafe for women to use because of the chances of sexual assault are higher. The third side said that finally it is possible to have sex in the bathrooms, without looking for odd places.
Many students do not know or are familiar with what gender neutral bathrooms actually are. The first idea is just a regular multi-stall bathroom without a specific gender assigned to it. But it’s not.
“It’s a safe single user bathroom – a place, where there is a lock on the main bathroom door, and they are available to everybody….One bathroom – a private space, people can do their business, go, and then the next person comes in,” said the director of the Women’s Center for Gender Justice – Dr. Elizabeth Yukins.
The Women’s Center for Gender Justice is working on creating more single-user bathrooms, as well as single user locker-rooms, where gender nonconforming individuals are able to safely use locker-room and gym equipment without being harassed and bullied. Yukins said that since we have such a progressive administration, it became easier to develop and start creating safe spaces for transgender and gender unidentified people. In the last 6 months to a year, this project is moving much quicker.
As a matter of fact, John Jay has a few of gender neutral bathrooms situated throughout the school. One is located on the first floor of the North Hall building next to staircase “B.” In the Westport Building, there is one located on the first floor, past the turnstiles, and just beyond the security desk, via the door on the right. In the Haaren Hall, there is one located on the second floor of the T-Building, just east of the elevator lobby. Finally in the New Building, there are a few of them: one is behind the Wellness Center (you have to enter through it), and there are also two single-user, fully private bathrooms in the faculty and staff dining room, 2.61, on the second floor.
Anjelica D’Emilio, a senior and employee of the Women’s Center for Gender Justice, is currently making a video project about the importance of gender neutral bathrooms at John Jay.
“There are many students for example: transgender, gender-nonconforming, genderqueer, etc., who do not feel safe in sex-segregated bathrooms. In addition to psychological effects such as anxiety and fear of harassment, all students are at their best academically and socially when they can access safe spaces on campus. Increasing the number of gender neutral bathrooms is one way that John Jay can provide that safety,” said D’Emilio.
Another student, Libby Luder, junior at John Jay, said that she heard about the same sex bathrooms in John Jay College. Luder said that people who are gender – nonconforming should have a safe place like those bathrooms because they get offended in both male and female bathrooms. So they deserve to have a comfortable place without being disgraced.
“I think that people need to have more of an open mind. At one point in time transgender was a very taboo topic, and I am happy to see that it is now being experienced and treated in the academic world as well as in public life, such as New York City. Many places hold New York in high esteem, and I believe that if New York will take a lead and starts being more tolerant about transgendered people, perhaps other people along the way will join,” said Luder.
Yukins advised to check out the Silvia Rivera Law Project, which has a documentary about the gender divided bathrooms. In the documentary, there is evidence that one of the reasons there is such a high LGBT dropout rate for high school students is because they literally can’t use bathrooms in their schools without getting beaten up or bullied. She also said that there was a case where a John Jay student wouldn’t drink anything for the whole day, to be able to go through 6 hours of school without using a bathroom. Therefore, CUNY as a whole is looking for ways to combat this issue.
“To be mindless about something – is to be privileged about that thing. And so lots of people go to the bathroom and don’t have to think about it. Before I go to the bathroom, I have to calculate all the steps, so that I don’t cause the turbulence for others,” said Yukins.
More information about Gender Neutral Bathrooms can be found at: http://transgenderlawcenter.org/issues/public-accomodations/peeing-in-peace