The authentic self: Transgender issues on campus

Plans are underway to convert many single-use restrooms at the University of Oregon to become gender-inclusive ones. (Creative Commons Archive)

For a transgender student at the University of Oregon using a restroom during class can pose a challenge. Not every building on campus has a gender-inclusive restroom, which requires trans students to miss longer periods of class than most other students in order to find an inclusive restroom.

For many transgender students, a gender-neutral restroom is the only comfortable space to use. According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, nearly one in 10 (9 percent) transgender people have been physically assaulted in a traditional single-sex restroom. 

Elle Mallon brought up transgender issues during the 2015 ASUO elections.

Mallon, the ASUO gender and sexuality diversity advocate, filed a grievance against the We Are Oregon campaign for holding a kick-off event at Prince Lucien Campbell Hall, an area without a gender-inclusive restroom.

Students and members of the LGBT Education Support & Services Program at the university have been fighting for gender-inclusive bathrooms for 10 years. Last year, Mallon was largely responsible for spearheading the campaign for gender-inclusive restrooms, and was backed with support from the LGBTESSP, ASUO Executive and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Queer Alliance.

Mallon started an ASUO resolution for gender-inclusive bathrooms. She received input from the ASUO Senate on what the restrooms were to look like, then took the resolution to the University Senate — which it passed. The resolution then reached the desk of the university president.

Mallon didn’t stop there. She drafted the proposed policy, which was then tossed back and forth within the administration before it was ultimately passed. During her fight for gender-inclusive bathrooms, Mallon described a valuable moment she had with the Provost, where she was thanked and told that the university administration was aware of the issue and was working on it.

“It takes being persistent and starting a movement,” Mallon said.

The university is currently undergoing the first part of a project to convert single-user restrooms into gender-inclusive ones. According to a statement published by Director of Public Affairs Communications Jennifer Winters on Around the O, 40 single-user restrooms are currently being converted over the next couple of months, with between 75 to 100 restrooms planned to be converted during the upcoming fall term.

According to Maure Smith-Benanti, director of the LGBTESSP, gender-inclusive bathrooms are not just to the benefit of transgender people, but to those who prefer privacy like the parents of small children or those with attendants of a different gender.

Another initiative in the works is a preferred name policy that was passed last year, which allows for a student’s preferred name to appear in places like student emails, class sheets used for roll-call and the UO Find People directory. Currently, it is a matter of getting software to correspond with the data warehouse collection that feeds information into DuckWeb.

“For a lot of people, when they don’t feel like the gender that they’ve been assigned is the gender that they are, they also won’t feel that the name that they were given actually suits them,” Adrion Trujillo, community liaison of the UO LGBTQA, said.

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