Posted December 16, 2014 by Trinity Gonzalez and Danielle Acosta 

Promoting Inclusion With All Gender Bathrooms

Professionals in college unions and student affairs have the distinct privilege of working with some amazing students who are out to make the world a better place. We witness the light bulb come on when someone learns exactly what privilege is and how the world looks differently when viewed through someone else’s lens. That the majority of us can navigate public spaces freely and without worry of harassment while others cannot is a dramatic realization to some and, for many, a call to action.

Navigating public spaces can be made difficult for people who identify as transgender or, in other words, don’t conform to the gender binary. Responses to a 2011 survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Trans Equality indicate that more than half of the survey respondents have experienced harassment and violence in public facilities (especially when using the restroom). The survey population included more than 6,000 transgender people in the United States. While strides are being made, more can certainly be done to provide spaces where anyone, regardless of gender identity or expression, can use the restroom safely and with dignity.

All InclusiveAt Florida State University, members of the Pride Student Union became aware of the growing numbers of transgender students and recognized the need to provide a secure space for them to attend to one of the most basic human functions. Not only did the students recognize the need, they took action that resulted in the creation of two all gender restrooms in the Oglesby Union. This article will focus on how they made this happen, with the aim of increasing the conversation about why this is arguably one of the most essential things unions can do to create a welcoming and inclusive environment.

In early September 2013, the director of the Pride Student Union requested two separate meetings with the director of the Oglesby Union and also the Oglesby Union Board to propose adding gender-neutral restrooms in the Union. Both the union director and board were very receptive to this need, and the decision was made to change the signs outside of two lockable, single-stall restrooms already in the union. The process could have ended there, but the Pride members wanted to ensure student involvement and acknowledgement during this process. Therefore, on Sept. 24, 2013, Pride sent a well-founded proposal to the Union Board outlining the need for gender-neutral restrooms. This proposal landed them on the agenda for the Oct. 2nd meeting of the Union Board.

As a result of this meeting and a separate presentation to the Senate, Resolution 74 was passed in support of All Gender restrooms on the second floor of the Union near the Student Government offices. Through their research and information gathering for their presentations, the Pride Student Union members found that the “All Gender” restroom was a more inclusive term than their proposal’s previously used “gender neutral.” All individuals express gender in a variety of ways, and gender is tied directly to their identity and does not necessarily neutralize at any point. Their hope in using this language was to not only create safe spaces within the union, but to also use the signage as an educational opportunity. Later, in October 2013, an additional Union restroom was designated all gender; however, the students who supported this change had some concerns over the new artwork for the signage outside of these spaces. The sign was to depict a man and a woman to show “neutrality”—however, this image still did not reach the goal of inclusion. Therefore, the Union Marketing Department, in concert with the Pride Student Union students, utilized a new symbol and verbiage for the sign, which reads “THIS RESTROOM MAY BE USED BY ANY PERSON REGARDLESS OF GENDER IDENTITY OR EXPRESSION.” Permanent signs were installed outside of the newly designated all gender restrooms, and they were added to the Seminole Allies and Safe Zones map in November 2013.

Thus, the members of the Pride Student Union helped the Oglesby Union take one more step toward inclusion. As a result of the incredibly well-organized effort on behalf of the Pride Student Union, another all gender restroom was added in the Wellness Center in summer 2014. Conversations with campus and local community organizations about how we can better support our underrepresented students are ongoing on Florida State’s campus. They will hopefully lead to inclusive restrooms on the ground floor of the residence halls and in academic spaces, as well. It is both thrilling and humbling to see just how hard our students work to achieve an outcome they are so very passionate about, which is why we are excited to share the student-led process to get all gender restrooms in the Oglesby Union at Florida State University.
Trinity Gonzalez

Trinity Gonzalez is the Associate Director, Oglesby Union Guest Services at Florida State University.

Prior to working at Florida State, Trinity served as the evening program coordinator for the Downing Student Union at Western Kentucky University. She has been actively involved with ACUI since 2008 and currently serves as a community of practice leader and as inclusivity coordinator on the Region III leadership team. Inclusion is an integral part of her management philosophy.

Danielle Acosta

Danielle Acosta is the Interim Director of Student Affairs—SGA at Florida State University.

In her department, Danielle works with students to allocate the Activity & Service fees and uphold campus and state policy. She also supervises an advising program of the three branches of government, including the identity based student agencies, interest group student bureaus, and class-level institutes and councils, and she oversees the Seminole Allies & Safe Zone program. Danielle has a bachelor’s degree from Clark University and master’s degrees from Clark University and Salem State University, and she is currently a Ph.D. student at Florida State University in Higher Education Public Policy.

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