On Dec. 26, 2015 Washington state removed all limitations surrounding gender and public restrooms. Due to the enactment of the new Washington Administration Code (WAC) 162-32-060, everyone has the right to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Green River College, among the many public facilities in Washington, will now have gender neutral restrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms.
This law will specifically allow people who identify as something other than their biological gender, to use the restroom they want without being harassed. There have been many incidents in the LGBTQ community concerning the difficulties of using public restrooms comfortably. The head of the Queers and Allies at GRC, Victoria Pacho, said students who are non-binary, transgender, or any part of the LGBTQ community face discomfort, emotional scarring, and even verbal and physical abuse because of restroom use.
Pacho gave the hypothetical example of a boy who appears to be female going into the male restroom. The hypothetical boy is confronted by three “manly-men” and is verbally or physically abused. The boy would be in danger by just using the restroom. Pacho then goes on to explain that if the restroom was universal, the boy would go in and there would be both males and females using the facilities. The boy would be safer in a situation where no one would care about his gender identity, since the boy would just be another person using the restroom full of people of different genders.
Pacho believes this will allow students in the LGBQ community to not have to avoid using the restrooms, but instead be in a safe environment for a basic human function.
Students, faculty, and anyone in the state of Washington will now begin to see the traditional understandings of restrooms begin to change. As this is a state-wide change, it will eventually become part of people’s daily lives.
With restrooms open to everyone, many people share the initial reaction of fear to other genders in the restroom. The issue of men in facilities with girls is the most commonly brought up negative outcome of this law.
However, Pacho said some people tend to overlook a part of this issue. Predators are going to attack no matter what, and a restroom sign is not going to stop them.
The gender-segregated facilities law also clarifies that this does not allow people to ignore the conduct and behavioral sections of Washington laws, meaning that people who abuse the use of public restrooms to harm or mistreat others in any way are not protected by this law.
With both of these factors, as well as others, the main purpose of this law is to provide everyone with the equal opportunity to use the restroom.
“Using the restroom is a human right,” said Dean of Campus Life Dani Chang, who supports the LGBTQ community. Chang is one of the many people at Green River who have supported the idea of “gender inclusive” restrooms. Green River has been moving forward with being gender inclusive for about eight years since the school hosted a general neutral restroom week where all of the restrooms were temporarily marked as ‘gender neutral.’
Green River also has a unisex restroom in Salish Hall, which is available to everyone on campus. Chang said there should be gender inclusive restrooms all across campus. These restrooms are for families, people with different sex caretakers, and especially transgender and the LGBTQ community.
“I was uncomfortable [in the universal restroom] at first,” Pacho says. “But we all use the bathroom, and the only time we mingled was at the sinks, when we were washing our hands.”
Green River College will be opening the Lindbloom Student Union building on Feb. 1. Inside the new building will be the all-inclusive restroom. This restroom will have multiple individual stalls with floor-to-ceiling doors and a mutual sink area that is safely visible from the hall entrance.
This restroom is meant to be available to anyone and everyone without bias of how they identify themselves, as well as to keep the area as safe as possible.
“I don’t foresee there being too many problems because of the way that they have designed the gender neutral bathrooms in the new building,” said Chris Turner, campus safety site supervisor. “Each one has its own locking door, and as long as people use common sense, then they should be fine.”
Campus Safety will handle any situations without bias towards people who choose to use the restroom of their personal choice.
“We are going to handle the situation, if there is any type of a situation that occurs here on this campus, in the most expedient manner,” Chris said.
The new restrooms are there for everyone to use.
“They are just restrooms,” Chang said. “There is nothing to be afraid of.”