The boarded up bathrooms in GC, made unavailable to potential users, are bringing changes to make FIU students feel safer and more comfortable on campus.
When these restrooms are re-opened, there will be a separate facility along with the long lines of stalls marked as a gender-neutral space.
Whether the user wishes to keep true their gender-identity, avoid potential danger by staying away from gendered bathrooms, change their child’s diaper in private or simplify the process of getting a wheelchair into the bathroom, the benefits of this new addition go farther than one might think.
FIU housing has already implemented changes to their bathrooms to make them gender-neutral, however, housing buildings are not available to those who do not live there or are guests of those who do. With the first gender-neutral bathroom on FIU’s campus open to the public, fewer people have to wonder if they are safe going to the restroom.
The University’s moves toward inclusivity are, of course, commendable.
However, FIU has been rather slow on the uptake regarding the implementation of gender-neutral restrooms. Other universities in Florida, over the past few years, have increased the number of available gender-neutral bathrooms much more quickly. According to an article published in the Miami Herald December 2014, University of Florida has about 25; University of South Florida has 56; University of Central Florida has 17; Florida State University has four; and Florida Atlantic University has 22.
Despite the time it has taken for FIU to provide gender-neutral bathrooms, the University is one of the first in the state to provide open housing. For those students in need of a safe place to express their gender-identity without fear of what difficulties or dangers of unfamiliar roommates who may or may not understand what they are going through, FIU plans to provide dorms in existing residence halls that will be open to house all gender identities in fall 2016.
The changes being made to FIU are, by no means, meant to exclude cisgendered or straight students, or to jeopardize anyone’s safety. Arguments are often made against gender-neutral bathrooms due to the potential for their abuse – that men might take advantage of women in bathrooms all genders are able to access. However, the point of opening gender-neutral bathrooms, or dorms for that matter, is to ensure safety – the facilities will be separate from the original ones, or only available to those of certain identities or accepting of those identities. What’s more, assaults happen in gendered bathrooms and dorms by users of the same or other genders. To say that this would be the only result of a private, gender-neutral bathroom or open housing is to ignore a problem that already exists.
This editorial board commends the University for its strides toward LGBTQA inclusivity, and hopes that steps continue to be taken to keep FIU worlds ahead.