The Need for Gender Neutral Bathrooms

by, Caroline McCarthy and Zoe DeFazio, Staff Writers

Manhattan College has granted the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center permission to convert bathrooms in common student areas from gender-specific to gender-neutral. 

Until the Spring of 2019, when the LWGRC began advocating for bathroom reform, Manhattan College had no bathrooms designated for all genders. 

Gender Justice Advocate, Schuyler Alpaugh took the problem into her own hands, asking college administrators to convert the single-stall restrooms on the third floor of Kelly Commons into the college’s first gender neutral bathroom. 

“I had a meeting with all of the administrators and they basically gave me a thumbs up,” Alpaugh said. “Dr Cross and I decided, why shouldn’t we have gender neutral bathrooms in almost every building?”

Manhattan College officials have been compliant in this endeavor, but lack the financial support of ordering and implementing new signs has been prolonging the duration of change

Awaiting the new signs, Alpaugh and Ashley Cross PhD., Co-Director of the LWGRC, have posted their own paper signs indicating gender neutral spaces in common areas. 

“[Dr. Robin Lovell] mapped the whole campus so we would know where we’d have the best inroads,” Cross said. “So we would know where people might be less resistant like we could take it over and then once we start will sort of, you know, build it.”

Without the validity of permanent signs, the bathrooms have faced complications. Makeshift signs in De La Salle and Miguel Halls were removed by an unknown source. 

“As an unwavering optimist would like to think it was just a misunderstanding with housekeeping,” Alpaugh said. “I think [spreading the word] will be the more important part now that we have the signs up. Because if people don’t know that we have gender neutral bathrooms on campus, who is it helping?”

The center has plans to name gender-neutral bathrooms in Leo Hall, O’Malley Library, De La Salle Hall, Miguel Hall, and Thomas Hall under the permission of Vice President of Student Life, Richard Satterlee, PhD.

Gender-neutral bathrooms have faced nation-wide scrutiny, especially on college campuses. The safety of each user is a legitimate concern, but not seen as a viable threat.

“It’s an argument to prevent change and to promote prevent recognition of equal rights across all genders,” Cross said. “I think anybody who looks at the statistics will just see that that’s just, it’s not even true, that’s not what happens. It’s not grounded in facts.”

According to a study conducted by the Williams Institute and UCLA Law, there is no correlation between gender-neutral bathrooms and an increase of safety risks. In fact, the transgender community faces a much higher danger in gender-marked public restrooms. 

In an interview with NBC News, public policy scholar at the Williams Institute, Jody L. Herman stated, “Research has shown that transgender people are frequently denied access, verbally harassed or physically assaulted while trying to use public restrooms.” 

Even without a presented safety risk, Manhattan College is only focused on converting single-stalled bathrooms, with only one occupant at a time. 

“The purpose of these bathrooms are in fact to create a safe and inclusive environment,” Alpaugh said.“It’s such an important part of creating an inclusive community.” 

 The decision to have these bathrooms is speculated to raise concerns from Manhattan College alum, but not necessarily the current student body, perhaps stating that these rules go against certain values.

Meanwhile, the official Manhattan college website has other things to say.

“The Jasper community is made up of diverse opinions, backgrounds, lifestyles and faiths. Our campus is a place of lively exchange and learning.”

“One of the most important parts of our Lasallian mission is to provide education for all, regardless of background or economic class. This ideal dates back to the work of our founder, Saint John Baptist de La Salle, who opened schools for the poor and underprivileged in France.”

Gender neutral bathrooms would be an inclusive addition to Manhattan college, making students who live beyond labels to feel included and accepted.