Editorial: More gender-neutral restrooms will make UTA a more inclusive campus for its diverse community

UTA plans to include gender-neutral restrooms in future building projects and major renovation plans, according to a statement from John Hall, vice president for administration and campus operations, to the Student Senate’s student affairs committee Feb. 25. This came after Student Senate introduced a resolution titled “Plan Before You Build,” which proposed additional gender-neutral restrooms.

Public restrooms are among the last sex-segregated spaces left in America, and they pose special challenges for men, women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, caregivers and members of the queer community alike.

Planning to include gender-neutral restrooms in future building projects shows students the university is dedicated to inclusivity. The Shorthorn editorial board supports the decision to include gender-neutral restrooms in future building projects and major renovation plans.

UTA currently has 25 unisex restrooms on campus, including those in Maverick Stadium, Clay Gould Ballpark and Allan Saxe Field. With the university spanning about 420 acres and including over 100 buildings, 25 is not enough unisex restrooms for UTA’s diverse and unique student body.

Gender-neutral bathrooms aren’t just for transgender folks, and you don’t have to be an LGBTQ ally to recognize this.

Parents with children of a different biological sex can bring their children into these restrooms. People who need assistance from a caregiver of the opposite sex can have assistance. Intersexed people who are born with ambiguous genitals and/or reproductive organs and women waiting in long restroom lines at public events can use them.

More than one in five undergraduates are parents, according to data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. About 19% of undergraduates in 2015 to 2016 reported having a disability, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and a recent Gallup poll indicated 5.6% of U.S. adults identify as LGBTQ.

Additional gender-neutral restrooms won’t do away with traditionally sex-segregated restrooms. They will only provide everyone with an alternative option for bathroom breaks depending on personal preferences. No one will be forced to use a gender-neutral restroom, just as no one is forced to conform to biological sex to choose bathroom facilities.

Opposers voices who argue that gender-neutral restrooms compromise women’s safety fail to see the point of the restrooms in the first place. Sex-segregated restrooms originated from early moral ideology about the appropriate role and place for women in society.

Public restrooms separated by sex convey subtle, yet powerful and outdated messages about the nature of gender and gender differences.

Separate restrooms foster the social understanding that women are inherently vulnerable and need protection in public spaces, while men are predatory, Terry Kogan, a law professor at the University of Utah, wrote in an article titled “Sex-Separation in Public Restrooms: Law, Architecture, and Gender” for the Michigan Journal of Gender & Law.

“Moreover, the two-restroom model teaches that there are two and only two sexes, a message highly problematic to the public's acceptance of transsexual and intersexual people,” Kogan wrote.

Sex-separation of architectural space is not natural or inevitable.

The Shorthorn editorial board recognizes that everyone has unique circumstances resulting in the need for gender-neutral restrooms. We think additional gender-neutral restrooms will be beneficial not solely to UTA’s transgender community, but to a myriad of people visiting campus.

The Shorthorn Editorial Board is made up of opinion editor Katecey Harrell; Editor-in-Chief Cecilia Lenzen; associate news editor Spencer Brewer; Samantha Knowles, life and entertainment editor; sports editor Adrian Rodriguez; news reporter Thevnin Rumende; and copy editor Jill Bold. Brewer was not present for this editorial decision, and news editor David Silva Ramirez filled in.

opinion-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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