Bathrooms becoming safer

Guy Travon Bailey enters the single-person unisex bathroom on the second floor of the Multi-Use Building. PHOTO BY JESSICA NORTH / THE GUARDSMAN

Elliot Owen
The Guardsman

Transgender students should soon find the often intimidating and potentially dangerous task of using the bathroom much easier on Ocean campus after an updated list of gender-neutral bathroom locations is finalized and released by City College’s Gender Diversity Project.

Members of the student and faculty-run gender-variant advocacy group have been conducting a survey of how many gender-neutral bathrooms exist on Ocean campus. The list is projected to be finalized by Fall 2011.

The most recent list was created in 2008, and includes 13 gender-neutral bathrooms, some of which were converted from faculty bathrooms in older buildings, while others were included in the construction of newer buildings.

“It’s become an ordinance that every new building must be built with a gender-neutral bathroom,” said Emily Thompson, coordinator of GDP, a service learning project of HIV/STI Prevention Studies.

“Sometimes it’s not safe to go into a gendered bathroom,” Thompson said. “So this is a new and visible movement to make sure the bathroom is available to gender-variant students.”

City College’s mandate that all campus buildings have gender-neutral bathrooms was enacted in response to harassment and violence against perceived transgender students during Fall 2003. Consequently, five gender-neutral bathrooms were constructed by Fall 2005, and today there are more than 13.

Bob Davis, City College’s transgender outreach and advocacy coordinator and dean of liberal arts, said the construction of gender-neutral bathrooms in the remainder of Ocean campus’ older buildings is being delayed by City College’s lack of funds.

“In buildings like Creative Arts, Visual Arts, Batmale Hall and the library, construction is more involved,” said Davis. “Those bathrooms are not going to be built until after the budget recovers.”

Postponed construction of gender-neutral bathrooms in those buildings could mean that transgender students risk feeling unwelcome when using gendered bathrooms, or have go to another building with a gender-neutral bathroom.

“People take for granted that the bathroom is a safe place to go,” said Dean Bonilla, a transgender student and member of GDP. “I came from a campus without gender-neutral bathrooms and I felt very unsafe. There’s no telling who is going into the bathroom not understanding gender-variance. Maybe they wouldn’t know how to cope with it or understand it and act out in violence.”

Bonilla came to City College because he heard about its “trans-friendly” atmosphere. He emphasized the importance of gender-neutral bathrooms for the safety of transgender students.

According to several students that attended a GDP-organized open forum on gender discrimination last week, other issues that gender-variant students face on campus include botched usage of preferred pronouns or names-of-choice and trans-phobic remarks made by students and faculty.

In response to these issues, GDP has initiated sensitivity trainings with various departments and has also formulated a contact list of trans-friendly or “ally” faculty members located in different campus facilities.

“We want to do a major dissemination of this information across all campuses,” said Thompson. “There are a lot of trans folk here and we want more.”

A 2011 list of gender-neutral bathrooms for satellite campuses Alemany, Downtown, Evans, Gough, Mission, John Adams and Southeast has been finalized and can be found in the Link Center or on GDP’s website.

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