If you’ve recently found yourself needing to relieve yourself on campus, you may have noticed something new. I know what you’re thinking and, no, this isn’t an article about University of Miami adding bidets to our already palatial campus. This article is about something so much more important.
The University of Miami recently introduced 14 gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
“That’s progressive!” You may be thinking. “Can I use that?” “Should I use that?” “What does it all mean?” “Who cares!?”
Let’s get into it.
According to Campus Pride’s findings, gender-neutral bathrooms are among the top ten features LGBTQ students look for in a welcoming Campus. And at University of Miami, this reigns true as well. In a letter published to President Julio Frenk on August 18, 2015, UM alumni Ryan Aquilina wrote,
“Right now, the University of Miami is not an LGBTQ-friendly institution. I could mince words, but it’s the truth. And when you love something like I love UM, sometimes you have to be willing to be honest.”
He continued in saying that, even despite monumental changes in American society toward the LGBTQ community over the last decade, University of Miami has, in contrast, done little to progress.
“Last year, in a University-conducted survey, 3 in 10 LGBTQ students at UM indicated that they do not feel safe while on campus.” Aquilina wrote.
In a phone interview with the President of SpectrUM, Jacob Rudolf, he explained that he too believes the administration at UM has been very responsive to the needs of the LGBTQ community. He has served on the task force for over three years and can see the amount of work President Frenk and the administration is doing, calling it a “commendable job”. However, he went on to say that the administration cannot shift campus culture. It is up to the student body to change the culture of our campus, and make it one that is inclusive.
While it may be difficult to change the way that some people act or feel to their core, what we can do is create an environment that is welcoming to everybody. How do we being to do this? In 2014, the –LGBTQ of UMiami called for these things institution-wide:
-Designate gender-neutral bathrooms.
-Include gender and LGBTQ identities on the admissions application and other Institutional forms.
-Incorporate LGBTQ inclusive language in University communication and marketing materials.
-Designate professional staff to provide programming oversight and support to the LGBTQ student community.
-Target fundraising and development efforts to support LGBTQ initiatives.
A step in the right direction has recently come for University of Miami. Thanks to Donna Shala, and Julio Frenk’s determination to continue the work she started with the LGBTQ community on campus, the U has introduced 14 gender-neutral bathrooms. And we’re not the only school. There are over 150 schools around the U.S. that have gender neutral bathrooms.
In a letter from December 7, 2016, Frenk wrote:
“As I announced at my Town Hall meeting, a limited gender-neutral, on-campus housing option will be available for upper-class students in fall 2016. Furthermore, 14 gender-neutral and inclusive restrooms will be designated on the Coral Gables and Rosenstiel School campuses by the spring semester.”
I have heard some students express confusion about why these bathrooms exist on our campus. While it may seem obvious to some, I decided to have Jacob clear this up.
On February 6, 2016, The Florida Competitive Workface Act, failed to pass. This bill was set out to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity or expression within the workplace. The reason it did not pass, explained Jacob, was because the provisions would have given transgender people the right to use the bathroom of the gender which they identified with.
According to an article written by the Herald Tribune,
“Some expressed further concerns that the bill would allow sexual predators a loophole giving them access to women’s facilities. Others wanted to ensure the bill promoted religious freedom.”
The death of this bill before Congress only serves to perpetuate transphobia. In reality, the community simply wants to be able to perform a basic human function without fear or ridicule. A hashtag #IJustWantToBe has given people the opportunity to unite in the support of the transgender community.
So, if these gender-neutral bathrooms have given transgender students the ability to feel safer and more included on campus at the University of Miami, the reason for these bathrooms is a no brainer. But who can use this bathroom? Is it for you? Is it only for the LGBTQ community!? Must I be transgender to set foot inside? Everybody relax.
“Anybody can use the gender-neutral bathrooms. They are intended more or less to give more choice for people who don’t identify as male or female.” Said Jacob.
A gender-neutral bathroom just means that any gender or gender identity can use the space in a safe and comfortable environment. I mean, isn’t it fair to say every bathroom in your private homes are “gender-neutral”. I would say the majority of them are. So, if you have balls or boobs, if you rock heels or a half chub, If you love men, women, or both- no matter who you are, what your genitals may be now or become, this bathroom is for you.
Our main focus should not be on the why or who of these bathrooms, but instead of focusing on making our campus a place where everybody can coexist. It sounds like a dream, but it is up to us as a whole to make it a reality. If you’ve made it this far in the article, give yourself a pat on the back because you’ve already helped by simply becoming educated.
A final remark from Jacob urged the UM community to do our best to accept each other. “To stop judging people; see past things and see everybody as people.”
Photo credit: http://40.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m4a1xiKRmU1qiv3izo1_500.jpg