By Nate Izzo
Photos By Nate Izzo
Over the course of the recent past, one of the most prominent civil rights movements is the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, specifically the rights for transgender people. With more transgender celebrities appearing in the spotlight and the public becoming more accepting of them, the challenges and struggles they face have also become more well-known.
According to the New York Times, around 1.4 million American adults identified as Transgender in 2016. The actual number is likely much larger, due to people in unsafe situations forced to keep their identities a secret. This is not an insignificant number; there are ten states with smaller populations.
Those unsafe environments that many transgender people live in can stretch outside of the home and into the public. While the public has become more tolerant of trans people over the years, and major strides have been made, a large part of the population is still very transphobic, even to a violent extent.
These actions have led to many trans people feeling unsafe using public bathrooms. Trans people, especially trans women, have been vilified by transphobic people and labelled as dangerous sex offenders. In reality, transgender people are much more likely to be victims of sexual violence.
Because of this prejudice, at least 24 states have proposed so-called “bathroom-bills.” These bills would force trans people to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender they were assigned at birth, not the gender they identify with. This could potentially expose them to even more of the aforementioned violence. It also invalidates the identities of non-binary people who do not fit into the male-female dichotomy.
Recently, gender neutral restrooms have gained prominence. They provide a safe place for trans people to use the bathroom without any fear of danger. Usually single occupancy, these bathrooms are open for all genders to use without worrying about other people. This year in New York City, a law went into effect mandating that all single occupancy bathrooms be labeled as gender neutral.
Here at CCNY, there are several gender neutral bathrooms around campus: six exist in the main campus buildings, and two rest at the Towers. While these bathrooms are good for the transgender students on campus, there is a plethora of issues with them.
In line with CCNY standards, maintenance of these bathrooms seems to be routinely neglected. For example, the one on the first floor of the NAC is often out of service. When it is working, paper towels are strewn everywhere and there is a puddle of leaking soap on the ground. On the third floor of the NAC, neither compartment of the toilet paper dispenser was loaded when checked.
More often than not, these bathrooms are also inaccessible. The elevator in Shepard Hall, known to be slow, is one of the main ways to get to the bathroom on the building’s sixth floor; the stairwells going higher than the fourth floor are often locked. Other bathrooms, including the ones on the ground floor of Shepard and the second floor of Marshak, are tucked away and difficult to find.
While it is a victory for transgender and other LGBTQ+ students to have these facilities available, their inaccessibility and state of neglect almost defeat their purpose. If a disabled trans woman is desperate to go, she will not have time to wait for an elevator. If gendered bathrooms give a nonbinary person dysphoria, they deserve a clean space to do their business.
Transgender people exist on this campus. Trans people exist everywhere. And just like cisgender people, transgender people deserve clean, accessible bathrooms, and the Health and Wellness Center is fighting to make this a reality here at CCNY. The department has released a petition calling for the college to better the state of the gender neutral bathrooms on campus.
The petition showcases the new map of the restrooms. It is requested that this map is posted around the campus so that their locations are known to the students that need them. It also calls for gender neutral bathrooms to be installed in the buildings that lack one, and to make all of them accessible. The last of the demands is for a reframing of the conversation around the issue so that trans students know the resources available to them.
CCNY is notorious for falling into disrepair, and the gender neutral bathrooms on campus are no exception. Their lack of maintenance combined with their inaccessibility practically negates their existence. All students deserve to feel comfortable on campus, and the Health and Wellness center is advocating for that comfort to be extended to transgender students.