Transgender student seeks bathroom rights

Erika Heck and Erika Heck

University student Pac Wood considers herself not only an advocate for herself, but also an advocate for others. She is a transgender woman.

People of transgender identity are those who present themselves as a gender other than the biological sex they were identified as at birth.

Wood was born male, but identifies as female.

Circulating on Facebook recently has been a petition in which Wood says she is not allowed to use the women’s restroom in her residence hall because she was not born female.

“(If) the restrooms are separated by genitalia, or as I was informed by Residence Life ‘biological sex,’ then Residence Life is lowering down a woman’s sole identity marker as a vagina,” the statement says.

In her statement, Wood also cites Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

According to the Department of Justice website, “The principal objective of Title IX is to avoid the use of federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs and to provide individual citizens effective protection against those practices.” This applies to all traditional educational institutions, including colleges, universities, elementary and secondary schools.

“By not allowing trans-women or trans-men to utilize the restroom in which they belong, (the women’s room for trans-women, or the men’s room for trans-men),” the petition statement continues, “the rest of the BGSU campus allows trans students to utilize the restrooms they identify with, and the Residence Halls are lacking in social justice by not following suit.”

One thing that has been done to help with the growing issues of transgendered individuals using restrooms is the growing number of gender-neutral (or gender-inclusive) bathrooms on college campuses.

Multiple campuses, including the University of Michigan, have gender-neutral bathrooms, but also gender-inclusive housing.

Gender-neutral bathrooms (also called unisex or sometimes family bathrooms) are facilities that any person, regardless of biological sex or gender identity, may use freely.

“It works for a variety of different people,” Director of Residence Sarah Waters said. “It works well for certain medical conditions. And generally people just often like the privacy of having a bathroom that feels a little bit more like home.”

Family and guest restrooms can be found on the first floor of the residence halls at the University, but the housing assignments, and thus the dorm bathrooms students have access to, are based on biological sex and not gender identity.

All four wings in the Kreischer residence hall have a bathroom on the fourth floor that any student living in the wing can have access to.

“In MacDonald, when we did the renovation … we added a single-use bathroom in addition to a community bathroom,” Waters said. “Currently, Kreischer and MacDonald have that stand alone bathroom … in terms of where we have toileting, shower and sink.”

Undergraduate Student Government Vice President Danielle Parker says they are looking into providing more of these facilities on campus.

“Last year our Internal Affairs chair wrote a resolution calling for gender-neutral bathroom implementation on campus,” she said.

Because of this resolution, the Falcon Health Center has gender-neutral bathrooms located on the second floor.

According to Parker, gender-neutral bathrooms can also be found in the Student Recreation Center.

“Right now, our Diversity Affairs subcommittee … is working on that issue as well,” Parker said.

Both Parker and USG President Victor Senn acknowledged that gender-neutral restrooms are needed across campus, including in the dorms.

Pac Wood said gender-neutral bathrooms single the individual out.

“I understand why it’s there for people who are beyond the binary, but I am on the binary,” she said. “And as a woman, a women should be able to use the woman’s restroom instead of being singled out and saying ‘you have to use this restroom.’”

Sarah Waters said residence life is always looking for ways to accommodate students living on campus.

“We have to balance the needs of everybody living on campus, but we want everyone to feel welcomed in the environment,” Sarah Waters said. “That’s really our core mission.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect a more accurate definition of transgender.