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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 8, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 23
Green River CC offers gender-neutral bathrooms
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Green River CC offers gender-neutral bathrooms

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

This week, Green River Community College (GRCC), in Auburn, Washington, has designated many of its restrooms as 'gender-neutral.'

Although GRCC hasn't received any reports of students being harassed or feeling unwelcome in bathrooms, school officials say they made the change in an effort to be 'proactive instead of reactive.'

'We did it for a number of reasons - we did it to provide a service, we did it to start a conversation,' Dani Chang, GRCC's student services director, told SGN. 'It's opened the door to having the simple conversation about accessibility and service for all students and creating a safe space for all students.'

The student-led initiative took effect Monday, June 4, and ends today (June 8), but many hope that the experiment will lead to a permanent change.

We've had some naysayers who don't understand why,' said Chang, 'But it's given us the opportunity to have those conversations.'

Although anyone can use the gender-neutral restrooms, which are large multi-stall facilities meant to serve many students at a time, school officials think they've left plenty of restrooms available that are designated for only one gender.

Sixty-five stalls were designated as gender-neutral, leaving 111 for men only and 91 for women only.

'Students have a choice,' said Chang. 'Either gendered or gender-neutral.'

Fliers were placed throughout the GRCC campus early this week explaining the change to the student body and the restrooms designated gender-neutral had their Men/Women signs covered up. Additionally, information explaining the change in several languages was made available to international students.

'People who do not conform to the gender binary, such as Transgender people, often face legal issues, harassment, and even violence if they are perceived by others to be using the 'wrong' restroom,' said GRCC in a statement.

Still, not everyone was pleased.

'I'd probably leave just because there is that danger of a man and a woman in a bathroom alone, especially since there aren't one-seater [rooms]. They're open bathrooms with, like, four stalls, and, you know, anything could happen,' said one student, Rachel. 'It just makes me nervous.'

Rachel also said she is upset because the move was approved by school administrators without asking for opinions from the entire student body.

GRCC, established in 1965, is about 30 miles south of Seattle. For more information on their gender-neutral bathroom trial, visit www.greenriver.edu and click on 'events calendar.'

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