FSU Implements Gender-Neutral Bathrooms Across Campus


Photo Courtesy of Joey Phillipo.

Nick Barrieau, Managing Editor

On Oct. 20, Fitchburg State University’s Leading for Change Team emailed students and staff to announce that 65 single stall, gender-neutral bathrooms have been designated with appropriate signage around campus. The bathrooms were previously designated as male and female bathrooms, and the change reflects the university’s efforts to support members of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

When asked what went into the decision to designate gender-neutral bathrooms around campus, Laura Bayless Ph. D., Fitchburg State University’s Vice President for Student Affairs stated, “Trans* and non-binary students and employees are visible on campus. Officially designating our single stall bathrooms gender neutral is visible support for our trans* and non-binary population. Fitchburg State prioritizes being an environment where all can thrive.”

Bayless, who also co-chairs the Leading for Change Team, elaborated on providing an inclusive environment to students on campus by saying, “Trans* and non-binary members of our community should not be forced to make a choice that doesn’t necessarily align with their gender identity to use the bathroom. Designating these spaces gender neutral sends a clear message that Fitchburg State takes action to value and respect all members of our community for who they are and what they contribute. This is in alignment with our strategic imperative for education justice.”

For students wondering where the university’s gender-neutral bathrooms are located, Bayless shared, “Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion web page has a link to a map of single stall bathrooms.” 

Upon being asked about her opinions regarding the announcement, trans student Penny Wade commented, “I think it’s a great addition. I know there’s a lot of people that will be made more comfortable using the bathroom. For example, non binary people who don’t want to go into a male or female gendered bathroom. Or maybe trans people who don’t feel comfortable going into either bathroom or people who just want a little privacy. I think it’s a great addition.” 

Wade continued by saying, “I’m a little confused as to whether it is a big deal or not because I feel like the email made it feel like this is a big improvement for Fitchburg State, but I also feel like they are not really trying to advertise it as such. I don’t really see why those bathrooms were gendered in the first place. I don’t mind that they did this stealthily because I don’t feel like this is something that should be made a big deal out of. I just think it’s something outdated that was on this campus that they updated for us. I don’t see it as a big win for the LGBTQIA+ community, I just see it as a kind of no brainer.”

 When asked if she feels supported by the university, Wade answered by saying, “That’s a tough question because I certainly don’t feel like a huge difference has been made by making single stall bathrooms into all gender spaces but I just kinda feel that it makes sense. As if I feel supported by the school itself, I think that’s a tough question to answer. I think there are good places to go on campus like the GSA. I should say personally that I’ve never been made to feel unwelcome by faculty, which I think is an important thing. But I also definitely feel like I make a lot of people uncomfortable on this campus. With that being said, I think it’s kind of ridiculous to expect every student to be accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community even though that’s what I would ideally like. We have a lot of students on this campus definitely though that are not comfortable with queer people.” 

On the topic of looking towards the future of inclusivity on campus, Wade shared, “I definitely think that they could be doing much more. I feel like the thing with the bathrooms is really just a kind of non-step, where it’s like they are just updating it to make it right, but I don’t think it’s anything to make a big deal out of. I don’t think it’s something that makes me think they are really supporting my community. I definitely think there are a lot of great things on this campus. For example, I’m taking a lovely gender class this semester. I guess if I wanted to see more of anything I would like to see more programs on campus that are targeted at trans people and maybe even something like having a trans education or trans youth day. I think we could do a lot of cool campus events for specific members of the LGBTQIA+ community and I think it could be really great and really informative for people within those groups that may not know a lot about certain parts of the community.”

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term “trans*” as seen in this article, is defined as, “originally used to include explicitly both transsexual and transgender, or (now usually) to indicate the inclusion of gender identities such as gender-fluid, agender, etc., alongside transsexual and transgender.”