FIU is currently installing a gender-neutral bathroom in Graham Center and another will be added in Recreation Services’ Rec Center during its expansion later this year. These will be in addition to the nine existing gender-neutral bathrooms in Housing and the one family bathroom in Rec Center.
With an estimated 10 percent of the FIU community identifying as LGBTQ, the request for gender-neutral bathrooms has grown, and allows students and faculty to use the restroom without having to identify with one specific gender.
“Gender neutral bathrooms should be the norm not the exception,” said Gisela Vega, associate director, LGBTQA Initiatives. “In some public spaces such as shopping malls and restaurants, they are already the norm.”
Some areas of campus have taken notice and either converted or are planning for gender-neutral bathrooms to be included in future construction plans.
Housing converted eight bathrooms to gender-neutral in September 2014 located in Parkview, Everglades, and Lakeview North and South. Joe Paulick, director of housing, decided to make the conversion, which only required a change in signage.
“Anywhere where there is a new building or where it is cost affordable it should be done,” he said.
Depending on the existing structure costs can range from $10 to change signage to thousands to install water lines, drainage and other construction costs.
Recreation Services has a family bathroom which serves as gender-neutral, located on the second floor of the Rec Center. An expansion that will be completed by Fall 2016 will include two more gender-neutral bathrooms, in addition to a gender-neutral shower.
Gender-neutral bathrooms not only allow transgender students easy access and privacy in the bathroom, but affords the majority of the student population the same opportunity. Gender-neutral bathrooms can also accommodate the handicapped student population. For example, caretakers of the opposite gender can assist students without complications of being in the “wrong” bathroom.
According to Vega, the work to create gender-neutral bathrooms was started by a group of students in 2012, but will continue to grow as the LGBTQ population increases on campus. Last year alone, LGBTQA Initiatives had more than 400 students, faculty and staff participate in the LGBTQA 3D Series, which are diversity presentations offered throughout the year to bring awareness and education to LGBTQA topics and concerns to the FIU community. They now sponsor a float at the annual Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade, with more than 300 participants, and have 40 students, faculty and staff in the LGBTQA Mentors program.
– By Amanda Graham