No campus community member should feel uncomfortable simply for being true to their identity, especially at a progressive institution like UC Berkeley. Yet it is easy to see why some here might feel that way, given the current lack of gender-neutral bathrooms on our campus.
Students, faculty and staff who don’t identify with a particular gender should not have to go out of their way to find an appropriate campus restroom — gender-neutral options should be easily accessible throughout campus. UC Berkeley made laudable progress by creating such gender-neutral spaces in most of its housing. However, that same mindset must apply to all buildings on the central campus.
Recent controversy in the new Maximino Martinez Commons over gender-designated bathrooms demonstrates how important the issue is to students and indicates the need for more inclusive bathroom designation on campus. The newly opened dorm did not have gender-neutral bathrooms when students first moved in, indicating a lack of consideration for every campus community member. This should never be the case at UC Berkeley.
Still, the campus handled the situation well and came to an agreeable compromise by designating some bathrooms in the commons as gender-neutral and others as not.
Creating widespread gender-neutral bathrooms would be a radical step, but it would also mean living up to our ideals as a progressive campus. UC Berkeley has a proud tradition of encouraging a diverse student body, so embracing gender-neutral bathrooms on a large scale would be another step forward.
More gender-neutral bathrooms on campus would not only more adequately serve our diverse student body, but they would hopefully teach new students to think critically about the issue and respect different gender identities. This wouldn’t mean that those who are uncomfortable using gender-neutral bathrooms would have to forgo the traditional option. A mix of both should be available to accommodate everyone.
We shouldn’t expect gender-neutral bathrooms to become standard without opposition or controversy. It is not standard in most places, and some people will not be comfortable with the idea. At the same time, this would set a positive example for other universities across the nation. UC Berkeley has been ahead of the curve on many occasions — let’s take the lead here, too.