It is a typical Tuesday and I am rushing to class, late again, because my last class was in the Shannon Center, and I had to pee. For me, this means stopping in Mendenhall and waiting for the mom who is in the bathroom with her child to finish up her business, which takes a while, as anyone who has had to care for a two-year-old would know. At this point, I am debating just walking into the women’s restroom, because I have had to hold it for over an hour during my pilates class. I wait, deciding that it would hurt more to have to confront my gender dysphoria and imposter syndrome than to be patient for a few more minutes. When I finally stumble into class, the lecture is in full-swing, and all eyes are on me. I overhear someone behind me whisper “She’s always late … Does she even want to be here?” I bite my tongue, which longs to correct the person who just misgendered me and pull out my notebook. Halfway through class, I realize that the Campus Inn food is battling my digestive system and winning. At this point, if I leave, I will not return until students are packing up their bags. Still, what other choice do I have?
Whittier College has been working towards improving the number of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, but many buildings still only have gendered bathrooms available. So far, there is a gender inclusive bathroom on the first floor of the Science and Learning Center, one in the campus courtyard, one in Mendenhall, one in the Diehl basement, one on the first floor of Ball Hall, bathrooms in a few of the Harris buildings, one in Johnson Hall, and one on the first floor of Wanberg Hall. This may seem like a lot, but it leaves many offices, classrooms, and dorms vacant of any inclusive restrooms. Not to mention, only the Harris dorms offer showers in their inclusive restrooms, leaving residents of all other dorms forced to shower in a gendered restroom which may not align with their identity. First-year dorm halls and Ball Hall in particular divide their dorm rooms and bathrooms by gender. Considering that all halls have communal bathrooms, transgender people, including non-binary folk, have no option that does not highlight their gender identity and risk their mental health and physical safety.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, violence against the trans community has spiked in the U.S. since the 2016 presidential election, as that 28 transgender people were murdered in 2017, 23 in 2016, and 21 in 2015. Political debates relating to gender, such as bathroom bills and laws prohibiting discrimination, are often linked to a temporary spike in violence against trans people. According to transstudent.org, one in four trans people will experience some sort of violence in their lifetime, 80 percent of trans people feel unsafe at school due to their gender expression, 50 percent of trans folk have been sexually assaulted by a romantic partner, one in 12 trans women and one in eight trans women of color will be a victim of murder, and 41 percent of trans folk have attempted suicide. Because only twenty states and the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico have non-discrimination laws, trans folk are also at a higher risk of unemployment and homelessness. They are also at risk of being without proper healthcare. Forcing trans folk into a situation which polices who can use which toilet based on their perceived gender only increases this risk of violence. Not to mention, the fact that gendered bathrooms will almost always make a trans person choose a room that does not align with their gender identity increases the risk of mental illness due to gender dysphoria and imposter syndrome.
Whittier College has a sizable population of transgender students, faculty, and staff, and yet, there are still very limited options for these folk to simply use the restroom. Ideally, there would be a gender-inclusive restroom located near the other two gendered bathrooms. Ideally, each building should have at least one. Why should some people have access to a comfortable place to do their business, while others do not even have the choice to live in a space that aligns with their identity? Whittier College claims to support its diverse population; its buildings should reflect that.