Using the restroom is an activity that many people don’t give a second thought. However, for members of the LGBTQ+ community, a bathroom break can mean facing discomfort, stress or even harassment.
MCCC is taking steps to become more inclusive by adding gender-neutral bathrooms to both floors of the L Building and the basement of the C Building. There is currently one gender-neutral bathroom located in the A Building. The others are expected to open in November.
Gender-neutral bathrooms serve as a safer alternative to traditional male and female bathrooms for many members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially those who do not identify as cisgender.
“It gives people like myself and other students that don’t identify with either of the genders or don’t feel safe in either bathroom a place to go so that they don’t have to drive off-campus to use the bathroom,” said Jessie Stamper, a LGBTQ+ student.
Many noncisgender individuals avoid using public restrooms due to fear of harassment, which can cause health issues. According to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, 31% of those surveyed avoided eating or drinking to prevent bathroom breaks, and 8% of those surveyed reported having a kidney or urinary tract infection, or other kidney-related issues due to the avoidance of restrooms.
“I had a friend who had a severe UTI from not going to the bathroom for 8 hours a day on campus because he didn’t have a car to drive somewhere else,” Stamper said.
By providing more accessible bathrooms, students are able to become more engaged within the school.
“So the benefits of having safe, accessible restrooms for everyone on campus is that they can participate fully on campus, they don’t have to leave every few hours,” said Melissa Grey, psychology professor and adviser of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, or GSA.
“We get the benefit of their full participation and the benefit of a healthier community too, as well as the benefit of not being exposed to other people’s toxic prejudice and harmful ways that people sometimes react to people in restrooms.”
Other schools across the state and country have also constructed gender-neutral bathrooms for their students and faculty.
“If you go to any U of M medical facility, they have gender-neutral bathroom facilities that you can access,” said Jenna Bazzell, English professor.
“A lot of educational institutions are having to do it to be in compliance with regulations and laws, now. So a lot of colleges just like ours are having to make these renovations because of these reasons.”
Last semester, members of the GSA met with the administrators to voice their concerns with the bathrooms on campus. Bazzell worked with LGBTQ+ students to express their concerns in the meeting.
“They (administration) were not aware that these things were happening to the students on this campus, even though we were telling them. The students actually read accounts that they actually wrote of what happened, and they were able to verbalize them. I think that was a lot of actualization for them (administration). The students are the ones that designed the meeting and basically ran it. All we do is sit there and support it, whatever they want to do,” Bazzell said.
According to Grey, the administration has taken these accounts seriously, making sure renovations are happening in a timely manner.
“It is a positive step that they moved up the renovations. They could’ve waited to do these renovations considering the laws and regulations, so we take it as a positive sign, a very concrete positive sign that they moved these renovations up,” Grey said.
By speaking up, the LGBTQ+ community at MCCC was able to inspire a change that makes their schooling more safe, comfortable and enjoyable.
“We’re doing the best we can by voicing these concerns. All we can do is put the data in front of them, which Melissa does a lot, along with putting the students’ voices into a platform where they will be heard. You can’t make someone accept that or not, but you can make someone able to recognize it and see it, and that’s essentially what we’ve done,” Bazzell said.
MCCC’s core values include diversity and iclusion, along with respect, and it advises anyone with issues to reach out to one of many sources.
“Anyone on campus who experiences a negative encounter, whether they define it as bullying or harassment, or whether it seems to be about gender, sexual orientation, race, or whatever it may be, there are several sources that students and employees can tap into,” Grey said.
“There’s an anonymous way to report a problem on campus, and we’ve linked that through the GSA website page. Anyone is welcome to gain support or talk about what they’ve been experiencing with the GSA.”
Students and staff can find the MCCC GSA website at https://www.monroeccc.edu/gsa.