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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 1, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 14
NYC college makes all restrooms gender neutral
Section One
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NYC college makes all restrooms gender neutral

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, in New York City's East Village, says it will remove all gender markers from all of its restrooms.

Instead of the usual 'men' and 'women' signs, Cooper Union restrooms will be labeled 'restroom with urinal and stalls' or 'restroom with only stalls.'

The privately funded school has about 1,000 students, all of them on full-tuition scholarships.

'When people see someone who they think doesn't belong there, it can create stress for everyone,' Cooper Union President Bill Mea said. 'So we thought, let's just take that away. Visitors are figuring it out pretty quickly, too.

'From a practical standpoint, very little will actually change in our day-to-day use of restrooms.'

'I cannot change the outside world and how it treats transgender and gender-nonconforming people,' Mea added, 'but I can change the Cooper Union environment to help everyone feel safe when they are inside our buildings.

'Cooper Union has always been on the forward edge of social justice issues. From the start, in 1859, we admitted women, African-Americans. It has always been an institution that promoted equality amongst people.'

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also took steps to protect Transgender access to restrooms with an executive order stating that Trans residents may use whatever public facilities they prefer.

In several other states, however, Republican legislators have moved to block Transgender people from using gender-appropriate facilities.

In Washington state, five statewide initiatives have been filed - all seeking to deprive Transgender Washingtonians of their rights to use public restrooms that correspond to their gender identities. It is too early to tell whether any will qualify for the November ballot.

North Carolina enacted the most repressive law in the country on March 23, forbidding restroom access for Trans people, all civil rights protections for the LGBT community, and any increase in the minimum wage all in one package.

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