(Editor’s note: This story is the second part of a multi-part series “Identity Crisis,” examining the transition from one gender to another that begins in Issue #1 and will continue through Issue #6. Several staff member took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.)
by: MATT MOLINAR/Opinion Editor
If you’ve walked through the administration building, you may have noticed the newest addition near the test room hallway. There is now a unisex bathroom set up for anybody to use. There is even a wide stall, which is accessible for disabled students and staff.
With transgender issues being brought into light, more and more changes are being made in order to help trans men and women feel both safe, and comfortable when using public facilities.
Cathy Mitchell, SPC vice president for student affairs, originally suggested the unisex bathroom to the SPC president, Kevin W. Sharp. Through this, all she had to do was order a sign, find a spot on campus to label as the new unisex bathroom, and the job would be done.
“I took it to the president.” Mitchell said, “One thing that changed was that we moved the health and wellness center, which had a bathroom that everyone could use. I knew that we had transgender students and staff that were using that restroom. It came to my attention that when we were closing that off, we were closing off the restroom” After realizing that the transgender students and staff who normally used this bathroom no longer had access to the facility, Mitchell wanted to find a new place to utilize as a unisex bathroom.
Lily Perry, a transgender student in Hillsboro, Missouri, received backlash from other students after she was seen using the girls’ bathroom. Students protested in opposition to Perry by staging a “walk out”, making her feel uncomfortable to use any bathroom in the school. Issues like Perry’s have surfaced all over the United States. Mitchell says that the unisex bathroom will help SPC students, so that nobody has to feel uncomfortable.
“We were just wanting to provide a location for students that didn’t feel comfortable going to a men’s only, or a women’s only bathroom. It’s for everyone, so that no one has to feel uncomfortable.” Mitchell said
Bathrooms haven’t always been gender segregated. According to Sheila L. Cavanagh, author of “Queering Bathrooms: Gender, Sexuality, and the Hygienic Imagination”, only up until the late 1700’s have bathrooms started becoming gender segregated. Mitchell explains that when you go to the bathroom at your house, you would just call it “the bathroom.”
In more liberal states, like California, unisex bathrooms are seen almost everywhere.
“When I’ve traveled, I’ve realized, in other places, that this is just the norm.” Mitchell said, “There was a sign on the door that said ‘Yes, this is for both. This is the restroom.’”
Under Title IX, schools are expected to treat transgender students by the gender they identify as. However, the unisex bathroom at SPC wasn’t part of any regulation. Mitchell saw this as an opportunity to help keep students feeling safe and comfortable.
“I can see things moving this way as a nation. It’s just basically to help our students.” Mitchell said, “This is a college campus, so we should be respectful to all students.” Mitchell says that she hopes they will be able to find more places on campus to use as unisex bathrooms.