With the Scheidt Family Performing Arts Center opening on campus sometime in 2023, many expect there
to be gender-inclusive restrooms available. Others, however, are still concerned with the lack of gender-neutral restrooms available on campus currently.
Nick New, an SGA freshman senator who identifies as nonbinary, created a survey surrounding student interest in more gender neutral restrooms with the hopes of creating a bill making it mandatory for all buildings on campus to provide restrooms suitable for nonbinary, transgender and gender non-conforming students.
SafeZone, a program created to “fully support gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning U of M students, faculty, and staff” has a resources page on the university website with a list of all the gender-neutral restrooms currently operating on campus.
“That was part of the reason why I wanted to start getting the logistics and planning together,” New said “I saw the list and was like ‘these are all over the place.’”
New also noted that these gender-neutral restrooms do not have signs, “They’re really out of the way and they’re really hard to find and they’re not with the other cisgender bathrooms that are available, especially in the older buildings.”
The bill is still in its fledgling stages, with the survey acting as its catalyst to gauge student interest in the subject.
“Once the survey results are completed and I have enough people say ‘Yes, we want this’ the next step will be looking at where the best locations are for them?” New said “How long is it going to take? How much money is it going to take? Where are we going to get that money? And then once I get all that figured out, I’ll present the bill with all those logistics planned to the SGA and ideally get it passed.”
New said that of the 50 people who have responded to the survey so far, only one claimed to have no interest in more gender-neutral
bathrooms and that the majority of students who have responded to the survey do not identify as nonbinary themselves “I find that's very interesting,” New said, “I figured that non-binary students would have made up most of the data—that they would be most of the people that were responding to the survey.”
Chelsea Liddell, the program manager for student inclusion within the Office of Multicultural Affairs shared her thoughts surrounding more gender-neutral restrooms being available in the future.
“I believe there will be more gender-inclusive restrooms added to our campus, especially as new buildings are constructed,” Liddell said. “Because of building codes and other policies, it will be challenging and take some creative thinking to make more gender-inclusive restrooms present on our campus. It will take more time than we really want it to, but I do think progress is being made.”
Liddell also noted that, while she has not seen students complain about the presence of gender-neutral restrooms in university spaces, she has seen the direct opposite, “I hear a lot of conversation from students regarding the frustrations of having to find a building—sometimes out of the way—that contains a gender-inclusive restroom for them to use,” Liddell said, “I think it is important to recognize that there are a significant number of LGBTQIA+ individuals within our student body here at the U of M. It is essential that we work to create more inclusive and safe spaces for everyone on our campus.”