As with any situation one must always acknowledge their own privileges, including those that are hard to recognize. As members of the cisgender community it was difficult to understand the daily issue that arises for the gender queer community in terms of what bathroom to use. Before the commencement of this project, others, such as members of QUMBC and Lee Calizo, Director of Student Life, had already begun to tackle this issue on UMBC’s campus to provide a safe space for those who did not feel comfortable in our gendered bathrooms. Since Fall 2011 the first pair of gender neutral bathrooms were set up in the Commons’ lower level, one located near the Yum Shoppe and the Women’s Center; the other located at the bottom of the steps on the same level.
We did not believe that only one pair of bathrooms were enough to provide a comfortable environment for this community. We did not think it was acceptable for students to walk from academic building to dorm lobbies just to use bathrooms. In our approach, we tried to address and include students that did not want to use gendered bathrooms. It was time for us to consider possible solutions for this problem and fortunately for us, UMBC has a wonderful group of people who were willing to help us out with our next steps.
As of February of Spring 2013 we began meeting at the monthly UMBC Climate Meetings covering topics critical to the LGBT community. We believed this was a connected setting to promote our ideals about the need for new gender-neutral bathrooms, stating that it would not only help the transgendered community but also parents who may want to change their children or those who may suffer from anxiety of sharing bathrooms.
Lee Calizo and the rest of faculty and staff were very receptive to our idea providing us with a listing of all the bathrooms on campus that were possible to change into gender-neutral bathrooms (considering any building code regulations). This listing made it easier to tour around the campus to see where the best placements for the bathrooms would be. Unfortunately, most of the bathrooms listed were placed in nearly inaccessible areas to our commuting population leaving the three of us with only the options of a pair of bathrooms in Public Policy, the AOK Library, True Grit’s and the Interfaith Center
We eliminated the bathrooms from True Grit’s because it is only a swipe access building to those who are eating and it is a great enough distance from Academic Row that it produced an inconvenience. Leaving our group with the other six bathrooms we came to realize that we would have to eliminate the pair in the library because they have such a regulated schedule due to their location being in the Gallery on the first floor. With that, the remaining four gave us hope that we would be able to have these additions to our gender-neutral bathroom inventory. In our climate meeting in March we provided them with our findings and were told that new signage would be placed in those bathrooms stating that they are gender neutral.
It took about two months for the signage to finally be put up in the Public Policy bathrooms. The bathrooms in the Interfaith Center continue to be gendered but hopefully will be changed within the next following weeks. Finally in the last meeting we brought up that with renovations of the older academic buildings in the near future, gender neutral bathrooms could be put into those blueprints to provide accessibility in future buildings around campus.
Here are some fun Vine videos about our adventures showing where the gender neutral bathrooms are located:
Public Policy Building Bathroom:https://vine.co/v/b9nPBmFP1YJ
Interfaith Center Bathroom:https://vine.co/v/b9n25ThlgrJ
Project Completed by:
Steven Murcia, Carlos Turcios, & Lynzee Bales
The MyUMBC page for the work group can be found here:
The main staff and faculty that aided our efforts and were participants of the LGBT Campus Climate group include:
Director of Student Life
Student Life Office
Commons, The , Room 336
Assistant Dir. of Student Life, Diversity
Student Life Office
Commons, The , Room 2B23
Director, Student Judicial Programs
Student Judicial Programs
Student Development & Success Ctr (Temp Bldg)
Academic Services/Theatre Bldg