Recently, the ASUSF Senate passed a resolution that would make all non-residential restrooms gender-inclusive.This means that restrooms such as those in Kalmanovitz would no longer separated by gender. This is great news for gender non-binary people and all of us cisgendered people who support them. On paper, this resolution is important in the grand scheme of civil rights. But even further, the normalization of non-binary students will do something we should have been doing already: make all students feel a part of the USF community.
Normalization has long been a tool that the LGBTQ community used to achieve integration. It’s more than being seen as equal on paper. In order to have a fair and compassionate society, all individuals are required to feel like they belong and that no one group feels isolated. I think of an old commercial where a man and a woman are talking about their Kindles and the commercial ends with them both calling their husbands when I think about normalization. On paper, we may acknowledge that non-binary people deserve rights, but we still view them as an other or a group that still exists on the fringes on their society. We may care about their rights, but we might not care about their feelings as much as we care about those we see in mainstream commercials, TV shows or movies. These bathrooms aren’t just a civil right measure, but will also have a profound emotional impact.
Obama-era policies that ensured trans students had the right to use the bathroom of their choice were groundbreaking, but they had a key flaw. The policy was based on the assumption that non-binary people had a comfortable bathroom to use in the first place. Genderqueer activist Jacob Tobia described this phenomenon in an interview with Time Magazine. “I’m constantly stuck between a rock and a hard place, or in this case, between a stall and a urinal,” they said. “If I choose the women’s restroom, I risk facing panicked women who take one look at my facial hair and assume that I’m a predator. If I choose the men’s restroom, I risk facing transphobic men who, with one glance at my dangling earrings, begin hurling slurs or throwing punches.”
This is true for many non-binary students who face ridicule and humiliation, no matter which bathroom they use. When bathrooms are gender-inclusive, there will be non-binary students who feel comfortable in a bathroom for the first time because they know that’s where they belong, both in the restroom, and in the community.
Restrooms are, in general, mundane. You only think about them when you need them. But restrooms are also one of the few ways this society is divided by sex and enforced by law. We can live in a co-ed floor, in a co-ed room before we go to our co-ed classes, but we are still split into men’s rooms and women’s rooms, despite the fact that in most progressive circles, our understanding of gender has surpassed that binary.
The reason why us cisgendered people may not think about restrooms is because we’ve never had to worry about them. I am personally privileged to never feel as if I don’t belong in a restroom. However, when I try to imagine that every walk into a restroom was a potential moment of humiliation, I’m filled with anxiety. Nobody should ever have to feel humiliated. This resolution will bring gender non-binary students into our community, by showing that we find them no different than us. These new restrooms may make some of us uncomfortable, and may be meaningless to others, but in the long-run, this will make USF a more compassionate community.