UC Berkeley ignores Department of Education, expands gender-inclusive restroom spaces

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Alexandra Nobida/Staff

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Despite the federal Department of Education’s recent decision to ignore discrimination complaints, UC Berkeley will continue to adhere to guidelines surrounding gender-inclusive bathroom facilities, according to director of the Gender Equity Resource Center Billy Curtis.

In 2016, the Obama administration proposed nondiscrimination guidelines that sought to protect transgender and genderqueer communities under Title IX — guidelines which were removed by the Department of Education in 2017. This decision led to pushback from not only the campus community, but from all UC institutions, where guidelines on gender inclusivity were established in 2015.

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” read the Title IX guidelines.

Almost a year after this decision, the Department of Education, under the leadership of Betsy DeVos, officially announced that it would not be responding to any complaints regarding transgender students and their access to the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

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Though the Obama administration attempted to institute these policies in reference to transgender students and their restroom choices, federal injunction restricted these guidelines from ever being nationally enforced.

“(The University of California Guidelines For Providing Gender Inclusive Facilities) affirm that individuals have the right to use facilities that correspond with their gender identity,” said Stephanie Beechem, UC Office of the President spokesperson, in an email. “These guidelines, which align with the University’s nondiscrimination policies, were put in place to foster an inclusive campus environment and to ensure access to gender inclusive facilities in UC-owned buildings.”

These guidelines, such as requiring that new UC buildings and buildings undergoing major renovations must include gender-neutral facilities, lay the foundation for creating a wholly gender-inclusive campus, according to Beechem. The guidelines also state that existing single-stall restrooms must be converted into gender-neutral facilities.

“It means in those places with little or no gender identity protection transgender individuals can be at risk when using the restrooms that affirm their identity,” Curtis said in an email.

The campus currently has 44 gender-inclusive restroom locations and does not intend to slow down when it comes to the expansion of these spaces, according to Curtis.

Public restrooms are sources of fear for transgender people, even leading to deeper psychological illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder or urinary inconsistency, according to director of UC Berkeley Health Services Dr. Anna Harte.

“The clear solution is the routine creation of gender-neutral and inclusive bathrooms for all, so that people are no longer forced into categories that put them into conflict,” Harte said.

Contact Shelby Mayes at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shelbymayesdc.