This story was originally written for The Northern Light.
Gender-neutral bathrooms are becoming more normalized in American culture. An elementary school in San Francisco introduced gender-neutral bathrooms to its students. The University of Missouri recently implemented gender-neutral restrooms and housing. Several months ago, Boston City Hall initiated their unisex bathrooms for the public. The question is, is gender-neutral going to impact UAA?
Sarah Hyland, a transgender student and electrical engineering major, started her transition in August of 2012. She believes that the push for all gender bathrooms will reduce stress on current transgender students.
“I think gender-neutral bathrooms are great. I don’t see a large impact on my experience at UAA, mainly because I have no issues when I use the women’s restroom. That being said, early in my transition, the bathroom caused significant anxiety, which would’ve been much less had there been a larger number of gender-neutral bathrooms available. It would also help a number of trans people that are currently students at UAA.”
MoHagani Magnetek, a transgender woman and former TNL employee, faced discrimination two years ago when she was kicked out of Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse for using the women’s restroom. Her picture was taken in the restaurant and security told her not to return. However, Magnetek mentions that the UAA campus community has been non-discriminatory.
“I have been here for the last three years and have not had one incident on campus like I’ve had in the greater Anchorage community.”
Hyland agreed that discrimination never affected her on campus, but has in the larger Anchorage area.
“I had an issue at Burlington when I tried to use a fitting room in the women’s section of the store. That happened early in my transition. The woman running the fitting room denied me access, despite the fitting rooms being individual stalls. I had to try on my clothes in the men’s section. I was terrified to be out shopping before the altercation and even more so after.”
Despite Hyland and Magnetek’s belief that UAA has been a relatively safe space for them, there has been a push for increased inclusivity of transgender students on campus. Samuel Gonzalez, president of the Residence Hall Association is pushing forgender-inclusivee housing. He believes it is a way to show support of the LGBTQ+ students and to help provide an inclusive living environment while at school.
“With the gender inclusive housing pilot, the bathrooms will certainly have to be gender inclusive as well. We are leaving it up to the residents of the apartments to decide how their bathrooms will work, much like that of any other room in a residence hall or apartment. RHA believes that this pilot, if it is successful, will encourage UAA to be more inclusive in everything that they provide for their students.”
According to Gonzalez, the pilot will begin in fall of 2016.
“RHA and UAA as a whole should make it their top priority to ensure that all students feel safe and at home while they are living here.”
Magnetek agrees that the push forward is needed.
“I think we are better off letting people go to the restroom of their self-identified gender, that way people have choice and can feel comfortable wherever they choose to go. All the cisgender people who have no affinity for trans people are going to have to take a back seat and let the natural progression of human rights take place and let the world know that UAA is a progressive institution. As a community of students we are better than most of higher learning. Maybe its cause no one really pays attention here, everyone is focused on school and not what people are doing in the restroom.”