OPINION | Tulane’s all-gender bathrooms are not inclusive enough

Miranda Teresa Fitz, Staff Writer

Emma Vaughters

If you look on the Tulane University admissions page for diversity and inclusion, you can catch a few of the initiatives they’ve put in place: testimonies from students of color, LGBTQ resources on campus, and multicultural fly-ins, which are still happening, by the way. What I find useful to reference, in a time of impulsive handwashing urges and frequently empty sanitizer pumps, are the locations of all the bathrooms on campus. Where they are, how accessible they are and most importantly, who can use them. And that’s where concern comes in.

There are 60 buildings with all-gender bathroom on campus. When considering that Tulane’s Uptown campus is only 110 acres and has only 89 buildings, that is admittedly impressive. However, when examined further, some of these bathrooms would be scratched off on the basis of limited access to students and those with disabilities. 

Buildings with restricted access, like the law school building or the controllers’ office aren’t widely accessible to all students. Bathrooms in residence halls can’t be accessed without living in said residence hall. Several all-gender bathrooms aren’t physically accessible, like in the gated-off basement of the allegedly haunted Josephine Louise Residence Hall. Places like the Newcomb Nursery, the Bea Field Alumni House, and the President’s House aren’t accessible to the public, or even students for the most part, although they are listed as places with all-gender bathrooms. 

When I say all-gender bathrooms, I am actively and intentionally excluding single stall bathrooms that are gendered, though according to Tulane they seem to be included. Accounting for these various corrections, this brings us to just over 30 buildings with accessible all-gender bathrooms, all single stalled.

If you ask me, this doesn’t seem reasonable. This isn’t about using the restroom; it’s about the luxury cisgender students have to not misgender themselves when they need to wash their hands or have to risk their health and others’ when trying to get to a bathroom that doesn’t make them wince on the inside. 

Is it fair to have huge, multi-stall bathrooms for “women” and “men” and then have all-gender single stall bathrooms? Adding on the need to decide between mental and physical health is not something people should have to do any more than they already are. Nonbinary students can’t go into the many gendered bathrooms on campus without sacrificing their mental health. Binary students are provided access to two types of bathrooms, while nonbinary students are confided to an afterthought of single stalls. Waiting for the single stall while someone else — who is just as entitled, yet doesn’t need it — seems like an inequity. 

 It doesn’t feel right to allocate all-gender bathrooms, most of which were deemed as such by convenience rather than design, to the side hallways of the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life or to be tucked away in the dimmest corners of Gibson Hall. Frankly, it seems like reluctance to embrace the inclusive values Tulane openly shows off to prospective students.  

 I’d love to give Tulane the benefit of the doubt, but when examining the accessibility of these bathrooms, I have to wonder if they are truly helping anyone at all? If we need every student to abide by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handwashing standards, why are nonbinary students a blind spot?

There are solutions, none without contest, but solutions nonetheless. Gender anarchy, where every bathroom on campus is gender neutral? A third “nonbinary” bathroom in between “women” and “men” where we can find them? Solutions that suggest exclusion of binary individuals in all-gender bathrooms seem to miss the point, as it’s not to further limit access for individuals, but to broaden them for the most marginalized students. We want more people to have places to wash their hands, not to place more restrictions on accessibility.

 There are plenty of possibilities, but nonbinary students shouldn’t have to be an afterthought when exploring them. Putting a bathroom in a dimly lit, inaccessible, inconvenient, forgotten and mostly ignored corner doesn’t feel like enough of an inclusive solution to me.

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