From supporting a gender binary to inconvenient bathroom codes, Princeton’s bathroom system has long been criticized by students. In comparison to some of our peer institutions, the University fails to provide inclusive facilities for students who do not necessarily identify as a certain gender. In addition to issues of gender inclusivity, many students have found issue with codes on female bathrooms. In order to address these issues, the Editorial Board believes the University should increase the number of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
First, many of our peer institutions have adopted gender-neutral bathrooms to address inclusivity and equity. For example, Brown has many gender-inclusive bathrooms in buildings around campus, which are listed online for students. Currently, the University’s LGBT Center publishes an online map of all gender-neutral and single-stall bathrooms on campus. However, many of the bathrooms shown on this map are single-stall bathrooms marked either as Men’s or Women’s. By supporting this gender binary, Princeton forces students to choose between a men and women’s bathroom and does not accommodate students who identify outside of this binary. The Board feels that these bathrooms are not truly inclusive and welcoming, and urges the University to increase the gender-neutral options that are available in residential spaces.
The availability of gender-neutral options ensures that there are facilities available to all students regardless of their gender. For example, if a gender nonconforming or transgender person uses a bathroom that does not correspond with the gender people mark them as, they can feel generally unsafe and unwelcome in these gendered spaces. This not only questions their gender identity and experiences, but also does not allow for the safety and inclusivity of all students. In an effort to increase inclusivity, the Board recommends that the University designate at least one gender-neutral bathroom in every building when it is feasible and legally possible. We recognize, for instance, that this is not possible in the few buildings that only have a small number of male and female bathrooms. Thus, in buildings with multiple bathrooms, we recommend that the University convert an existing gendered bathroom into a gender-neutral one if a gender-neutral bathroom is not already present. This would ensure a gendered bathroom in each building and a gender-neutral bathroom in most. The Board is also supportive of single-stall bathrooms, but recognizes that construction and renovation costs may be an initial barrier.
Secondly, gender-neutral bathrooms in dorm buildings would help solve the issue of convenience. Women who do not know the bathroom code could simply use the gender-neutral bathroom. The Board recognizes that many female students on campus are supportive of a bathroom code for security and other reasons. However, gender-neutral bathrooms are not meant to be coercive. Should female students feel uncomfortable using them, they can simply continue to use coded bathrooms. Taking this into account, the Board further recommends that if a building were to have an equal number of male and female bathrooms, one male bathroom should be converted into a gender-neutral one. This would ensure that there is no decrease in the number of coded female bathrooms. Furthermore, if safety breaches prove to be a big concern, the University could look into installing locked doors for showers, which would be an improvement from the curtains currently installed.
Gender-neutral bathrooms are not meant to be coercive, and the Board recognizes that many female students who use coded restrooms feel most safe in that environment. Taking this as well as New Jersey state laws that mandate the number of women’s bathrooms in a building into account, the Board recommends that if a building were to have an equal number of male and female bathrooms, one male bathroom should be converted into a gender-neutral one. This would ensure that there is no decrease in the number of coded female bathrooms. The Board further recognizes that male students may prefer to use gendered bathrooms and may feel inconvenienced by the gender-neutral option. But because the University’s room draw process allows students to consider their proximity to their restroom of choice when selecting rooms, this perceived inconvenience could be avoided.
Gender-neutral bathrooms are not meant to be coercive or restrictive. Instead, the Board believes that they will give the student body more choice and flexibility. Students who wish to continue using gendered and coded bathrooms can continue to do so. However, the increase of gender-neutral bathrooms would offer a safe and inclusive space both for students no matter their gender.Dissent
We disagree for three reasons: (1) The Board’s proposal is not something most students want; (2) there is a better, less controversial solution to the bathroom inconveniences and (3) designating multi-person gender-neutral bathrooms sends a problematic message.
The student body does not consider gender-neutral bathrooms the requisite solution to the problem of bathroom code inconvenience. According to the poll mentioned by the Board, 54.7 percent of 1,635 students voted to abolish bathroom codes; however, on the USG's allourideas.org polling site, the proposal that there be "more unisex bathrooms" ranked 125th in popularity out of 130 University policy suggestions.
A better solution is to add single-stall bathrooms wherever feasible. Comfortably usable by anyone, they inconvenience no one and provide safe, private environments. If accommodating bathroom choices is truly so critical an issue, why not face the costs? The Board’s proposal comes with a price-tag as well, especially if showers need to be retrofitted with locking doors for safety reasons.
Finally, sponsoring the proliferation of gender-neutral bathrooms (besides ordinary single-stalls) sends the troubling message that sexual distinctions are unimportant and that gender confusion is better accommodated than addressed. Gender dysphoria is a serious problem and a source of real anguish; gender-neutral bathrooms would exacerbate rather than help resolve gender confusion.