Thursday, February 2, 2023

Searching campus for all-gender bathrooms

November 16, 2017

MSU’s campus is home to 545 buildings. Of those, only 77 buildings have all-gender, private restrooms. Only 57 all-gender restrooms are wheelchair accessible. This can make life complicated for transgender, non-binary or disabled students.

Of these restrooms, some are easier to locate than others. The State News set out on a hunt to find a sample of the most and least accessible all-gender restrooms on campus. 

The easiest included Wonders Hall, the MSU Union, the Music Building and the College of Law. 

Going off of the room numbers provided in a restroom map by the Facilities Planning and Space Management Office of Planning and Budgets, I was able to navigate my way through these buildings fairly easily

In both the Music Building and the College of Law, the restroom was on the 1st floor. In the Music Building, one must simply follow the hallway from the main entrance, and they will stumble upon it. In the College of Law, the all-gender restroom is visible the moment one walks into the facility, as it is directly across from Sparty’s. 

Finding the restrooms in Brody Hall, McDonel Hall and IM-Circle were where my journey became difficult.

Brody Hall is already sort of a maze to me, as a freshman from South Neighborhood who rarely goes there. In the first set of restrooms that one sees if they enter from the doors nearest to the bus stop, I found gendered public restrooms. I stared at my phone with my trusty room numbers, confused. 

ASMSU Representative of the Alliance for Queer and Allied Students Olivia Brenner said this is a common issue. 

“We have been working to try to get them in much more accessible locations," Brenner said. "Right now, a lot of them simply aren’t accessible. They’re in basements or even the ones that are marked on our map seem very hard to find.”

Brenner said not being able to find restrooms can have damaging physical and emotional effects.

“That in a way defeats the purpose of them because if you can’t find them, then you can’t use them," Brenner said. "We already have people who are essentially risking their health and safety because they don’t feel comfortable using the bathroom.”

Eventually, I made my way through the building’s twists and turns and found another set of gendered restrooms, along with a private all-gender cell. 

However, Brody’s restroom had a catch: it is inaccessible to wheelchairs. This leaves disabled transgender students with few options. 

Brody’s restroom layout is not representative of Brody neighborhood as a whole. In fact, wheelchair-friendly, all-gender restrooms are available in every other residence hall in the neighborhood.

McDonel Hall in River Trail was even more stressful. I went up and down stairs, I walked in circles, and still I came across nothing. 

Eventually, I found the restrooms in the building’s basement near the laundry rooms. This is a common location in a variety of residence halls to find all-gender restrooms. 

IM-Circle was the worst experience I had attempting to find an all-gender bathroom. The facility holds the only wheelchair accessible, all-gender restroom out of all of the IM facilities. 

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I took a guess when I walked in that it would probably be in the basement. As I wandered in the dim light, I felt like I was going crazy, as there was no sign of room 27D anywhere.

Then I hit HERL, the Human Energy Research Laboratory. The sign next to its door said its office held all of the “27” rooms. 

Upon entering, it felt like I was not supposed to be in this area. I walked through, quickly found the restroom, and rushed myself back out of the building. 

A previous State News article detailed the proposal to force transgender and non-binary students to use the restroom of the gender that appeared on their birth certificate. The article focused on the number of all-gender restrooms available to students and found that some students were frustrated with the lack of accessibility.

Brenner said Alliance would continue to work to create more all-gender restrooms in easier locations to access. 

“We have been working for a few years now with the administration to try to find a way to get — even in older buildings — which is really where a lot of the problems lie, the bathrooms," Brenner said. "More of them, so you don’t have to leave your building and walk ten minutes to try to find a bathroom.”


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