This semester, the Student Government Association’s (SGA) Positive Sexuality Liaison senior Hannah Bercovici has worked closely with members of the Colgate community to discuss creating gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. Currently, the few gender-neutral bathrooms are single-stalled, and their locations tend to be in the basements of academic buildings. Through this initiative, Bercovici hopes to create a more inclusive campus. She has been working with the staff of Shaw Wellness, Haven and other establishments on campus to implement this change.
“We’ve formed a gender-neutral bathroom committee to make all public bathrooms on campus gender-neutral. [We’re hoping to get] rid of the labels of ‘women’s’ and ‘men’s’ bathrooms,” Bercovici said.
Bercovici described the current state of on-campus gender-neutral bathrooms.
“There’s one in the Ho basement, there’s one in Haven, there’s one in Women’s Studies, which is in the basement of East. You start to list where all these gender-neutral bathrooms actually are, and you see that they’re hidden,” Bercovici said.
This is not an exhaustive list of all the single-stall gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, but on average it takes a Colgate student six minutes to walk to a gender-neutral bathroom.
By removing gender labels from every bathroom on campus, this initiative seeks to dispel the gender binary that is proliferated and emphasized by having only men’s and women’s bathrooms.
“There are people who are transgender, who don’t identify with what they’ve been biologically [born with], or there is gender fluidity where you don’t identify with either gender. That creates a problem with all of these gendered bathrooms,” Bercovici said.
Original building codes impede this process.
“At Colgate, and at schools across the country, there is a desire to get rid of gender[ed] bathrooms. It’s been impeded mainly by building codes. The building codes basically say that there has to be a certain amount of men’s bathrooms and women’s bathrooms per building for a certain amount of people in the building, which is basically making the assumption that everyone identifies with the binary.”
Based on the feedback she has received from her peers, Bercovici believes that most students will not take issue with the initiative to redesignate academic bathrooms as gender-neutral.
“People don’t really have a problem, I think, with academic building bathrooms [becoming gender-neutral], especially with stalls, because you’re not going to be able to look over and see the genitalia of whoever is peeing next to you,” Bercovici said. “That’s not something that’s going to happen.”
Bercovici spoke to some concerns that students may have.
“The major concern appears to be in dorms, and whether we’re going to try to have every dorm bathroom become gender-neutral,” Bercovici said. “I can see why people wouldn’t want it. Some women might not want to shower in the same bathroom that a man is showering in at the same time. But you still need to consider the comfort of people who do not identify by the binary, who, if they have to choose between going to the women’s bathroom or the men’s bathroom, they’re still going to get stared at.”
In tandem with the initiative, Bercovici hopes to educate students about the importance of gender-neutral bathrooms.
“The whole point of [the gender-neutral bathrooms] is to make everybody on this campus feel included. That should be expanded to dorm bathrooms,” Bercovici said. “I’m anticipating a lot of resistance on that end, but I think that with communication and education, people are going to be able to come around and accept that this is a necessary step.”
“In the face of this historic election, I think it’s even more important that we’re creating safe spaces for people on campus. We want Colgate to be a place where you don’t feel like you’re being discriminated [against].”
Contact Megan Leo at [email protected]