SG representative works to bring more gender-inclusive bathrooms to campus

Van Nguyen

Adding more gender-inclusive bathrooms on campus is an issue University-wide Representative Ashley Choi has been working on for the majority of the year, and she is hopeful campus building managers will comply with Student Government legislation in support of gender-inclusive bathrooms.

 Choi, an international relations and global studies senior, has worked on the gender-inclusive legislation exclusively since February, and it was unanimously passed at a Student Government meeting in September. The legislation aims to get gender-inclusive bathrooms on every fifth floor of campus buildings, as well as change single-use signs to gender-inclusive.

 “Some of [the single-use bathrooms] are still signed as either gender-neutral, all-gender or unisex,” Choi said. “The gender-inclusive signs have not been implemented for all pre-existing single-use bathrooms yet.”

 Choi said the Gender and Sexuality Center is already in possession of the gender-inclusive signs and just needs approval from the campus building managers to implement them.

 Not all building managers complied when past gender-inclusive legislation was passed, Choi said.

 Choi will meet with building managers on campus for the next two weeks to discuss the changes and will hear back in the coming months.

 This became an issue for Choi in 2012 when she and her family visited the University for a tour. Choi realized there were no gender-inclusive bathrooms in the Tower, so she and her brother, a prospective student who is transgender, had to walk 20 minutes to find a bathroom. 

 University policy requires any new building to have at least one gender-inclusive bathroom every fifth floor; however, not every building on campus built prior to the implementation of this policy has a gender-inclusive bathroom.

The GSC website lists 40 buildings on campus with gender-inclusive bathrooms, but according to Choi, some still do not have signs that say they are gender-inclusive.

 The Queer Students Alliance released the State of LGBT Affairs in 2006 to promote issues affecting the LGBT community at the time. The report said gender-inclusive bathrooms would create a safer space for those in the LGBT community.

“While it is not possible to entirely remove safety risks in any space, intimidation in public bathrooms generally happens because queer and gender-transgressive people are perceived to be trespassing on others’ sense of space,” QSTA wrote. “This would not happen in gender-neutral bathrooms, which would significantly reduce the risk involved in using the facilities.”

Since 2006, there has been a great addition of single-use bathrooms on campus, but not every building has one yet, which is the goal, Choi said.

The Pride Policy Alliance is an inclusive organization which promotes LGBT issues at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and UT-Austin. PPA Chair Daniel Jimenez said one of their key objectives is to raise awareness of how gender-inclusive bathrooms contribute to a campus climate of inclusion, acceptance and diversity.

 “One gender-inclusive bathroom per campus building is a great start for UT,” Jimenez said in an email. “I know I smile whenever I see a gender-inclusive sign on a bathroom door, because I know for someone struggling with a society that makes them feel vulnerable, unaccepted or different, at least they can take some reprieve in knowing that an institution supports their choice of bathroom, and consequently, their choice of gender identity.”