Welcome to OutWrite’s new “From the Archive” series! This series is designed to provide an opportunity to interact with our organization’s archives, assess the opinions and relevance of our past content, and bring that content into the present. In doing so, this series will applaud, critique, and put into conversation ideas of the past with present ideologies and dialogues. Overall, we at OutWrite hope this new series opens up conversations and helps us reconnect with the past while striving for a better future.
*The following article no longer serves to represent the thoughts of the organization today.*
TenPercent Winter 2002: The Family Issue
Unisex bathrooms: Convenience or safety measure?
By Kyle C. Spenser
Though having access to sex-neutral restrooms might lessen the ambiguity and awkwardness felt by those people transitioning from one sex to another while accessing public resources, the real issue in calling for private unisex bathrooms may have more to do with safety.
“When a person is beginning a transition, they tend to use the bathrooms for the gender into which they are transitioning,” said Steven Leider, a staff member at the UCLA LGBT Resource Center. “Transitioning women who go to a men’s restroom are in danger of being attacked or raped.”
The United States Students Association Board of Directors recently met at UCLA to initiate a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Student Empowerment Project, which will culminate in a national Day of Action on Queer Resources on April 10. Among the queer-friendly resources advocated by the board are unisex restrooms for transgender people.
Leider notes about five instances this year where someone called campus police after seeing a transgender person in the “wrong” restroom.
“A lot of people think transgender people are using the restrooms for sexual gratification, such as when a woman sees a man in a woman’s restroom, so they call the police,” Leider said. “It gets real ugly, real quick.”
Having gender-neutral bathrooms would avoid these complications, since it would not force transgender people to choose between bathrooms in the first place, according to Leider.
The LGBT Resource Center responded to the police calls by attempting to sensitize and educate police officers to transgender issues in order to avoid negative confrontations.
Ronnie Sanlo, director of the LGBT Resource Center, conducts sessions explicating the transitioning process, the differences between transgender people and gay and lesbian people, and basic psychological issues faced by the transgender community.
Also among student resources now being evaluated for their friendliness toward transgender and LGB students is on-campus housing. Sanlo was asked to visit De Neve Plaza and comment on its awareness of the needs of LGBT students. She highlighted the need for more private, gender-neutral changing areas, since they raise many of the same concerns as the restroom issue.
Many believe that adding gender-neutral bathrooms only serves a small percent of the overall student population. The national LGBT population has been estimated to be 7 to 10 percent, but according to Leider the LGBT Resource Center estimates UCLA’s LGBT community may make up as much as 15 percent of the university’s population. The specific size of UCLA’s transgender community has not been determined.
*Commentary and analysis to come*