Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Last fall, the University of Maryland Senate approved a bill recommending the addition of more gender-inclusive facilities on the campus. As a result, Facilities Management is converting all single-user restrooms to gender-neutral. This project — which should be completed by the end of the semester — demonstrates an understanding that transgender people should feel as welcome as cisgender people on this campus.
The bill also recommends adding more multi-user gender-neutral bathrooms, like the ones on the bottom floor of Stamp Student Union. While it’s definitely more expensive to install multi-user gender-neutral bathrooms than it is to simply change single-user bathrooms to gender-neutral, the presence of gender-neutral multi-user bathrooms would do a lot to improve the lives of trans people on campus.
Most arguments against gender-neutral bathrooms revolve around safety. A common argument against allowing transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity is that it would compromise the safety of cis women and girls in female-marked bathrooms. Some argue that gender-neutral bathrooms pose the same threat.
But public restrooms are already dangerous. There’s no security guard checking your birth certificate to let you into the men’s or women’s restroom. If you’re in a bathroom in a relatively remote area, anyone could walk in, regardless of their sex. They don’t need to pretend to be trans to access a bathroom of a different sex, which means women are always at risk when using a public restroom. There are plenty of instances of bathroom rape, assault and voyeurism to prove that.
Having gender-neutral multi-user bathrooms wouldn’t change that. I understand the discomfort or fear that some — particularly cis women — may feel when sharing restrooms with people of another sex. But almost all the buildings on this campus also have single-user restrooms they can use.
Cis people, myself included, often take for granted how easy it is to find a restroom to use. If I see a men’s restroom, I’m always certain that there’s a women’s restroom nearby. If I need to use the bathroom, I don’t usually have to look up a map or plan a special route to find one: I know that basically every building on campus has a women’s restroom.
Why shouldn’t transgender or gender-nonconforming people feel that same certainty? It is unacceptable that there are dorms on this campus without gender-neutral restrooms. No student should have to go to the gym to shower because there aren’t gender-neutral facilities in their own dorm.
I understand that adding new multi-user bathrooms isn’t a cheap project, but it’s worth it. There are also ways around the cost, such as changing existing gender-specific multi-user restrooms on certain floors to gender-neutral. There are a variety of gender-neutral and gender-specific restrooms throughout Stamp. There’s no reason every building on campus can’t accommodate trans people.
Liyanga de Silva is a junior English and women’s studies major. She can be reached at email@example.com.