Denison reveals all-gender bathrooms

BY ALINA PANEK

A step towards inclusivity as Denison published a clear map of all-gender and wheelchair accessible bathrooms and created two new locations of all-gender bathrooms.

This summer Vice President Laurel Kennedy sent an email to the student body attaching the new map and announced that with the Slayter renovations, the team had also included new all-gender bathrooms on the first and fourth floors. According to Denison’s website under the Office of Gender and Sexuality, all-gender bathrooms consists of  “a single stall, sometimes a urinal, and a door that latches. These restrooms only differ from most public restrooms in that they are not designated men’s or women’s — they are available to people of all genders.”

These bathrooms are meant to be more inclusive towards people who identify on the gender spectrum, people who may need privacy to maintain medical devices and those who need assistance or assist others using the restroom.

Omari Garrett ‘21 wrote an opinion article last April for “The Denisonian” on the all-gender bathrooms and cissexism speaking from the identity of genderqueer. “I use all (they, she and he) pronouns…. I do not see myself as a man,” Garrett said. “For me, being genderqueer means a few things: I don’t see myself as cis[gender], my sexuality, as opposed to popular discourse on sexuality, isn’t based on my gender, and I don’t see my gender as fixed. It also means that the campus discourse has been rather entertaining with so few trans[gender] and non-binary people having a stake in the conversation… I also think about how my race and ethnicity as a Black Latinx person and how my queer gender doesn’t fit stereotypes about Black males and thus making it difficult for a lot of people to interpret, and many opt to identify and describe me as queer more than anything else,” they said. Garrett is also involved with Outlook, Denison’s LGBTQIA+ and allies organization, as their Public Relations Coordinator.

In regards to the all-gender bathrooms, Garrett was concerned that the bathrooms seemed to be scattered randomly throughout campus and confused as to why all of them were single-stalled.

“At Denison, it has been difficult. Much difficulty comes with restrooms; the restrooms that align with my being genderqueer are scattered and follow an arbitrary pattern. Not having access to a restroom that reflects the gender of students outside the gender binary is institutional violence, violence I and many other students experience. Many of the gender neutral restrooms on campus are single-occupant,” Garrett said.   

“This is odd seeing that, in the case of single occupant restrooms, one’s gender is irrelevant. It would appear as if the accommodations students, staff and faculty outside of the binary have access to are both peripheral and unequal. This is an institutional example of sexism being rendered against those outside of the binary, or cissexism,” Garrett said.

Apparently, the reason why all-gender bathrooms are single-stall are due to legal reasons due to OSHA and ADA compliance. On a last note, they are also interested in what other transgender and non-binary people on campus have to say.

Dr. Kennedy says that all-gender bathrooms are becoming a standard expectation in new renovations.

“We have been doing this work as one element in efforts to make the campus more welcoming of queer students, faculty and staff,” Dr. Kennedy said. “The effort corresponds with re-shaping CWGA as the Office of Gender & Sexuality, bringing staff support, in the form of Dr. Kim Creasup (Director of the office of Gender and Sexuality), for Safezone training (last year’s Outlook president, Rhea Patil ‘19, had identified this to me as a priority concern), and increasing support in the Counseling Center,” Dr. Kennedy said.

The next stages of the renovations are being led by Jake Preston, Construction Manager of Facility Services, and Dr. Creasap who identified one of the main priorities being providing consistent signage of the bathrooms. These bathrooms have been a long time coming, spanning over five years and costing an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000 according to Art Chonko, Director of Facility Services.

The all-gender bathrooms have also created a buzz with Outlook. Serena Allegro ‘19, Outlook’s president, said that the bathrooms are really interesting for the organization.

“While technically for the last few years Denison has had a rule that any single stall bathroom is all gender, they have not been labeled as such,” Allegro said. “This new push to define these spaces as all-gender is a huge positive step in the right direction when it comes to supporting our trans and nonbinary community on campus. Having common and labeled all gender bathrooms is more than just about safety or choice, it also actively acknowledges the community on campus. The idea is to push the norm away from a cisgender community and allowing all forms of gender expression to be viewed as valid. Only time will tell on how the larger Denison Community interacts with those spaces. This positive movement is something we hope to build on in making Denison a safe and supportive place for the LGBTQIA+ community,” Allegro said.

If interested, Dr. Creasap offers Safezone training to learn more about LGBTQ+ inclusion on campus.