Between the anti-Israel activity on campus that has generated enormous media attention, and the protest against a feminist Professor who allegedly used improper transgender pronouns, there is plenty of turmoil on the Vassar College campus.

Now there is another point of conflict, a demand by students that all bathrooms be converted to “all-gender.”

Vassar College already has undertaken a Gender Neutral Bathroom Initiative:

The Gender Neutral Bathrooms Initiative is a project to address the lack of gender neutral bathrooms in Vassar’s academic and administrative buildings. In order to ensure that all students have a place where they feel safe using the bathroom, we want to make sure that there is at least one accessible gender neutral bathroom in each academic and administrative building. Currently, there are 13 buildings on campus have no gender neutral bathroom option. The goal is not to turn every bathroom gender neutral, but make sure that everybody has a choice in each building.

This effort, however, is inadequate to a student group identifying as the Vassar Queer Health Initiative, which has opened a drive to compel that all bathrooms on campus be “all-gender.”

The effort was announced in Boilerplate magazine, Taking Vassar’s “LGBT Friendliness” To Task: The Case for All Gender Bathrooms:

The Vassar Queer Health Initiative (VQHI) is calling for all bathrooms on campus to be labeled “all-gender,” with a subtitle stating: “Anyone can use this restroom, regardless of gender identity and/or expression.” VQHI finds this demand to be reasonable in theory and simple in implementation.

VQHI is predicting administrative and alumni pushback on our demand. Cisgender women, often claim uncomfortability in all-gender bathroom situations. And at Vassar, most often these women are faculty, staff, or outside visitors. VQHI attributes cisgender women’s fear of transwomen in bathrooms to transmisogyny and not actual dangers to their safety.

Spokespeople from the Transgender Law Center and the American Civil Liberties union have reported that there is no evidence that transgender women have committed physical violence against cisgender women in single gender public bathrooms (Bianco, 2015). The Williams Institute ran a survey that instead demonstrated the violence that transgender people face while using public restrooms. Conducted in gendered public restrooms in metropolitan Washington D.C., the study examined the experiences of transgender residents in gender separated bathrooms. They found that 59% of the male-to-female participants and 75% of male-to-genderqueer participants were verbally harassed while using a gender dichotomized restroom (Herman, 2013).

As of present, Vassar chooses to cater to those who are uncomfortable with all gender restrooms, specifically Vassar College faculty and staff, while disregarding the transgender voices that report violence in gender separated spaces. We must ask: which women and non-men is Vassar College choosing to protect?…

Discriminatory policies of gender dichotomized bathrooms need to end, and they need to end now.

The statement indicates that until a resolution can be presented to the Vassar Student Union and the administration changes its policies, students will place “all-gender” signs over the current male and female bathroom signs:

VQHI is holding the Vassar administration responsible for making the structural changes students need to allow transgender and genderqueer students to prosper. A resolution to make all bathrooms on Vassar College’s campus “all-gender” will be presented to the Vassar Student Association. In the meantime, new all-gender bathroom signs will be hung over old existing signs. This is not vandalization. This is transgender students taking their security and health into their own hands.

Shortly after the initiative started, however, there appears to have been significant pushback requiring a slight scaling back of demands:

VQHI would like to complicate our call for all-gender bathrooms. While we wish to erode and subvert the gender binary, we also have to acknowledge the experiences and ontological realities of all those affected by patriarchial violence. So with that said, VQHI will remain persistent with taping over “Men’s” bathroom signs with “All Gender” signs, while leaving some “Women’s” bathroom signs remaining as they are.

In a revised draft form letter meant to “spam” the Vassar President’s email box, VQHI states:

I stand in solidarity with Vassar Queer Health Initiative’s campaign to make almost all restrooms on campus be “all-gender”, and open to anyone “regardless of gender identity and/or expression”. VQHI will leave some “Women’s” restrooms as we recognize the need to have spaces of privacy and safety from the male gaze.

The all-gender bathroom movement already has received the support of the Vassar Student Association.

It will be interesting to see how the administration handles the situation.

[Featured Image source: My Door Sign]


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