During Winter break 2015, students and administration began drafting a seven-point proposal that they believe would make Clark a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ, Intersexual, Asexual and Pansexual students.
The proposal was created by Clark’s Office of Diversity and Equity, along with student group Queer Penguins and Allies, and is titled “Action Plan to Create a Welcoming Environment for LGBTQIAP Students at Clark College.”
One suggestion is to renovate single and multi-stall restrooms to make them gender-neutral.
“A gender-neutral bathroom is open to anyone, regardless of gender identity,” said Estancia Cota, intern at the office of Diversity and Equity and co-author of the proposal.
There are currently several single-stall “family bathrooms” on Clark’s main campus, but not in every building.
Some students said they have had experiences on campus that have led them to feel uncomfortable using Clark bathrooms.
Lily Pirayesh-Townsend, president of Queer Penguins and Allies, said they* have “had some experiences in bathrooms that have been uncomfortable for [them*] and for other people.” Because of these experiences, Pirayesh-Townsend doesn’t like using the gendered bathrooms at Clark.
Dr. Marylynne Diggs, an English and Humanities professor, said students have told her they feel uncomfortable with using the bathrooms on campus.
“Students [have told] me that they choose their class schedule on the basis of where the gender-neutral bathrooms on campus are located, so that they can go to the bathroom between their classes,” Diggs said. “It’s actually affecting their course of study.”
The Queer Penguins and Allies plan on surveying students to gain a deeper understanding of how they feel about the topic.
One student, Ezekiel Wells, feels hesitant about getting more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
“If it’s for one stall, I think it’s a great idea,” Wells said. “But if it’s for multiple stalls, for all sexes or genders that people identify as, to come in and use, makes me uncomfortable.”
Wells said he believes that because of the age diversity at Clark, there could be violations of privacy and thinks it’s important to keep the separation.
Ken Pacheco, director of Security and Safety, said that there haven’t been many complaints about safety in the bathrooms. However, Pacheco said he believes that there must be a balance of gendered and gender-neutral bathrooms, or else problems could arise.
“I would have concerns, not even as the head of security, [if people] tried to do away with all the split bathrooms,” Pacheco said. “Where does it end? Gender-neutral locker rooms or shower areas?”
But Cota thinks that’s the next step.
“Another point after [gender-neutral bathrooms] would be creating gender-neutral locker room spaces in the gymnasium,” Cota said.
Cota said the proposal also addresses incorporating language about transgender athletes in the NWAC.
Clark’s strategic plan for 2020 entails a universal design that offers facilities and services to meet the needs of the widest variety of people, Diggs said, helping people with different abilities and identities to use facilities without being singled-out as needing special accommodations. One example Diggs gave was wheelchair ramps near flights of stairs.
“[Creating gender-neutral bathrooms] would give me a sense of pride in where I work,” Diggs said. “It would give me a sense of belonging and commitment, just knowing that the college respects the needs of the people I respect. That everyone that comes to Clark can feel safe and like their needs are being met.”
The proposal will be presented by the end of Winter quarter to the Executive Cabinet, which consists of Clark President Bob Knight and other department leaders across the campus, according to Cindi Olson, the executive assistant to the vice president of Student Development.
*Lily Pirayesh-Townsend uses the pronouns they and them.
There needs to be a balance. While it may make Clark a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ, Intersexual, Asexual and Pansexual students, at the same time, it would just as likely make Clark a less welcoming environment for those that prefer gender specific restrooms. Many students and visitors would feel uncomfortable using multi-gender bathrooms.
It isn’t about taking bathrooms away from students and visitors. If you are more comfortable in a gendered restroom use that restroom. Some people are uncomfortable in gendered restrooms because they are policed by the people who use them. This is about providing access to restrooms for everyone which is a basic human right.
By calling out that an individual prefers to be called they, you are outing them and removing their power to identify as they choose. This is irresponsible, unequitable, and inappropriate.
From the APA Style Blog: “APA supports the choice of communities to determine their own descriptors. Thus, when transgender and gender nonconforming people (including agender, genderqueer, and other communities) use the singular they as their pronoun, writers should likewise use the singular they when writing about them,” (http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2015/11/the-use-of-singular-they-in-apa-style.html)
In this particular article, we felt it was important to point out that Lily Pirayesh-Townsend is referring to themself, and not more than one person. It was a matter of accuracy, in this instance.
I invite you to look at our other coverage of individuals who use gender-neutral pronouns, like clarkcollegeindependent.com/2016/02/29/white-like-me, where we felt it was acceptable to use the singular form of ‘they.’
Also, as a journalistic organization, we do not adhere to APA style, but rather the Associated Press stylebook. Thank you for you reaching out.
Managing Editor Cameron Wright