Gender-neutral bathroom advocacy has received more attention on campus recently after it was included in the platform of Akosua Achampong and Tt King, both MCAS ’18, next year’s Undergraduate Government of Boston College president and executive vice president. Posters were hung on some single bathroom doors last week that read “gender neutral not by institution but by solidarity,” and included the phone numbers of University Counseling Services and Trans Lifeline, a non-profit focused on serving the trans community.
The posters also contained a link to a bias incident reporting form launched in November by Eradicate BC Racism that seeks to collect data on potential incidents on campus. The form’s welcome page says it was launched, “In the absence of a user-friendly, trustworthy mechanism to report experiences of discrimination on campus.” A link to the form appeared on posters in support of gender-neutral bathrooms that were hung on bathroom doors in academic buildings last week.
According to Kevin Ferreira, GLSOE ’19, in 2015, Eradicate and UGBC worked with the Office of the Dean of Students to create an institutionalized form. It was taken down in November 2015 and put under review amid concerns about how it would apply to faculty in the classroom. A separate institutional form, “Report an Alleged Violation of the Code of Conduct,” has since been posted and applies to all suspected violations, including bias-motivated incidents. Ferreira said Eradicate’s form was launched in part as a response to hateful rhetoric used during the recent U.S. presidential campaign. Ferreira declined to discuss the specifics of the form for this story.
Dean of Students Thomas Mogan said in an email that he rejects the notion that there is no user-friendly and trustworthy mechanism to report bias incidents on campus. He said students are encouraged to report any suspected violations to BCPD and Residential Life staff, which are available in addition to the online form.
“It is concerning that a group of students feels that it is appropriate to try to collect this type of information on their own,” Mogan said. “Various laws and regulations require this type of information to be reported to proper authorities. We work closely with BCPD and other campus partners to fulfill these reporting obligations. No one has forwarded any alleged bias-motivated incidents to our attention so I can only assume that this group of students have not received any reports through their form.”
Gender-neutral bathrooms have been part of an ongoing conversation between LGBTQ+ activists on campus and the University. Dylan Lang, president of the Graduate Pride Alliance and GSSW ’17, said in an email that the GPA would continue to advocate for gender-neutral bathrooms despite indications from the Office of the Dean of Students that they are unlikely to appear on campus. The GPA takes part in a monthly conversation with that office called the LGBTQ+ Roundtable. Lang was not involved in the posters last week.
Lang said the GPA is exploring the possibility of all new buildings being built in the future to include all-gender restrooms. The GPA would also like signs on existing single-stall restrooms on campus to switch their gendered signs to just read “restrooms.”
“Ensuring that Boston College is a safe place for all its students requires that all people feel comfortable using the restroom they choose, regardless of their gender identity,” Lang said.
A gender-neutral bathroom was established in Newton Campus’s law library in 2014. Lang said the GPA is looking into the history of BC Law to understand why its campus has gender-neutral bathrooms while Main Campus does not. Mogan said he is unaware of any campus-wide standard in how single-use bathrooms are designated by gender.
The graduate student who made the posters, who is trans* and requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic that could have negative repercussions for their health, said they had not contacted the Office of the Dean of Students to talk about the possibility of designating some bathrooms as gender neutral. They said they thought that the presence of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus would create a safer environment for trans members of the BC community.
“BC has been very unresponsive to intra-institutional changes,” the student said. “Personally I found it much easier to bring the power back to the people and just make the right things happen by ourselves.”
The student said that when they present as a woman on campus and have to use the restroom, they experience a constant fear because of instances of violence against trans* women in particular. The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, reported that in 2015, 21 transgender people died due to fatal violence, and 22 in 2016. The student said their concern is less about political correctness and more about “basic survival.”
“I think having gender-neutral bathrooms is just one of the very, very basic steps to creating that environment where we don’t have to worry about survival, and we can actually concentrate on bettering our lives through education,” the student said.
This article has been updated.
Featured Image by Taylor St. Germain / Heights Editor