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All-gender restrooms become reality after long campaign

Stephen Lumetta

Senior News Writer

Students may have noticed a slight change as they headed into select restrooms recently: signs went up around campus designating certain single-occupant restrooms as all-gender. The approximately 30 restrooms designated as all-gender are located around the campus, including restrooms in Gault and Andrews Libraries, Lowry Center and Kauke Hall. The project was a long time in the making.

Christa Craven, chair of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department and professor of anthropology, came across an article last year about how activists at Wesleyan University replaced restroom signs labeling restrooms as men’s or women’s with a sign that said the restroom was an all-gender restroom. Craven forwarded the article to several like-minded people, asking if they would be willing to carry out an informal campaign like that at the College. However, administrators were already interested in making some changes to allow non-gender conforming people to be able to use the restroom comfortably.

“There was interest in doing this more formally and having it be something that was College-initiated and have it be a more formal acknowledgement that we have all-genders on campus and that everyone deserves to be comfortable in their lives on campus,” said Craven. “So that was what really turned it from being an underground activist event into being a formal, College-endorsed kind of project.”

Craven incorporated the idea into her spring semester Queer Lives class. A group of students took up the project: Angela Neely ’14, Scott McLellan ’15, Jacob Danko ’16 and Cas Wain ’16.

Nancy Grace, professor of English and director of the Center for Diversity and Global Engagement, helped to connect people and set up a meeting that included Craven, Dean of Students Kurt Homes and Associate Dean of Students Christie Kracker. Danko, in his position as the departmental assistant for WGSS, compiled a list of the single-occupant restrooms. Grace also had McLellan work on mapping all the single-occupant restrooms on campus through his job as the student assistant at the CDGE.

“We kind of collectively put our heads together on what kind of signs we could use. Scott was working on the maps,” said Danko. “Then we laid out rationale for why it was necessary and why it would be good for Wooster to [do this].”

In April, there was a formal conversation held called “All-gender Bathrooms at Wooster: A Conversation about Trans* Inclusivity with Alums Will Sherry and Estancia Cota.”

When fall classes started, the single-occupant restrooms still lacked signs that identified them as all-gender. McLellan wrote a Viewpoint in the Voice, and Grace had a few conversations to make sure that the signs would go up. Recently, they did.

So far, most reactions have been positive; however, there has been some criticism.

“I’ve heard just really good things from people,” said Grace.

“I know it’s stupid to get sources from YikYak — but I’ve seen people comment like, ‘Why do we have to have these?’ or ‘I don’t want to use an all-gender restroom.’ … We’re not doing away with gendered restrooms, but we did want to create a space for non-gender conforming people to also be able to use the restroom in peace without fear,” said Danko.

“People have been commenting and saying ‘Oh that’s not really a victory. You didn’t really do anything. You just put signs up.’ But I think the fact that we put up signs is kind of — it’s priming people. It’s priming people for getting them used to having bathrooms on campus that are all-gender,” said McLellan.

Many participants in the project said that they might look forward to ensuring some multi-occupant restrooms all-gender, though no one is actively working on this initiative right now. Craven suggested having one floor of a building be all-gender restrooms, while another floor could have male restrooms and female restrooms.

“[All-gender multi-occupant restrooms are] definitely something I would like to see, but I just don’t know in what capacity and on what kind of timeline,” said Danko.

While the restroom project is a big step forward, Craven says it is just the beginning of a larger conversation.

“In all honesty, the bathrooms are one aspect of it. It’s a visible statement on the part of the College that we value our students, regardless of their gender. … I think it’s part of a larger conversation. My hope is that the larger conversation is what comes out of it. I’m thrilled that this is one symbol of that. But a symbol on a bathroom stall does not an inclusive and comfortable campus make. What I would like to see come out of it is not so much focus on the actual bathrooms, but as focus on a larger conversation,” said Craven.

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