Professor talks gender-neutral restrooms

bathroom

M. Moore often gets anxious when choosing which restroom to use.

“I don’t identify as a binary gender,” the sophomore communication studies major said. “I just feel like if there were gender-neutral bathrooms it would make some people, especially like my friends and I, more comfortable on campus.”

In September, Associate Professor of Economics Perry Burnett proposed an idea to the Student Government Association to change all restrooms on campus into gender-neutral restrooms.

“Going to the bathroom has nothing to do with your gender,” Burnett said. “We have, however, made it that way, and we’ve made it a requirement to publicly announce our gender before going to the bathroom.”

Burnett’s “simple and cost-efficient solution” is to remove the outer door of the restroom facility, enclose each stall with dry wall and a fully private door and leave the existing shared sink in the facility.

“Target’s solution was a third bathroom, and basically anybody uncomfortable with sharing a bathroom would go to that third bathroom,” he said. “That doesn’t solve the problem to me because it’s a solution by exclusion.”    

Burnett said society is trying to control a person’s ability to go to the restroom due to their gender.

“If we change the level of privacy from group level privacy to individual level privacy,” he said, “then we don’t need to announce to anybody what our sexual organ or gender is before going to the bathroom.”

Burnett said he believes taking away the gendered groups would also minimize sexual assault.

“When you remove the groups of people, nobody is out of place,” he said. “If no one is out of place, then those types of violence against people who are not like you don’t occur because nobody is doing something perceived to be incorrect.”

Burnett said he would like to see gender-neutral restrooms as a single stall with a toilet and a sink in single units, which he would like included in the design for the new Fuquay Welcome Center.

“If the world can’t solve this, and society can’t solve this, why can’t USI try to solve this problem?” he said.

Burnett said he emailed President Linda Bennett his idea and she replied that she would talk to the chief financial officer.

Moore said they were excited to hear that gender-neutral bathrooms are being considered on campus.

“I normally use the women’s bathroom because I feel like people would be like ‘what the heck is a girl doing in the men’s bathroom?’” they said. “I don’t know which one to go into because I don’t identify as either one, so it’s really hard for me…I just think, well, my sex is female, so I should go in the women’s.”

Moore said they know a lot of people who never use a restroom on campus and choose only go to the restroom when in their apartments.

“I like going to the one in my apartment because it’s just me and I don’t have to stress over it because there’s no other people,” they said.

Moore said they feel the change in bathrooms would draw a variety of reactions among students on campus.

“There will be some people on campus that think ‘oh my gosh this is so cool, I can definitely use the bathroom on campus now,’” Moore said. “… I know some people will think it’s stupid, but it’s not your problem; you’re not a part of that group of people, and it doesn’t affect you. You go to your bathroom, and we will go to ours.”

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