Learning in the Loo: Washing away exclusionary facilities

by Tess Adamakos / Beacon Correspondent • September 15, 2016

Our student body prides itself on being accepting of all identities. But reactions to Emerson’s new bathroom policy—which introduced gender neutral facilities—tell another story.
 
As a cisgender woman, I am unwarrantedly intermingled into the realm of ignorant comments and “jokes” that have come with the recent gender-inclusive accommodations. Peers who are aware of my cisgender identity—or assume it based on my appearance—aren’t shy when voicing their often offensive dissent in front of me.
 
On campus, I have overheard, “Do they even think an office will supply them with a special bathroom in the real world?” and “How many trans kids do we even have?”
 
Alarmingly, the same obliviousness has travelled to our after-hours, where I have witnessed intoxicated peers express that the school is at fault for being “too coddling.” Emerson is known for its liberal camaraderie and exhibition of intellectual students from all over the globe. Because of this, I am deeply disturbed that many seem unwilling to welcome this change.
 
They are bathrooms. Their function is usually for one of two businesses; and actually, the idea of gender-neutral restrooms isn’t even completely new.
 
Mark Leccese, associate professor of journalism, said in his college days at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, he lived on a co-ed floor with only one bathroom and one shower room.
 
“No one seemed to mind,” Leccese said. “Everyone was courteous and respectful when sharing the bathroom with someone of a different gender. To me, that's what this issue comes down to: respect and courtesy.”
 
Given Emerson’s attitude of acceptance, I don’t understand how there can be hesitance to embrace this change. This is a microcosmic issue, but it demands “real world” importance. If college is just a placeholder for the real world, why do we invest the time, money, and daily stress into it? Active inclusivity while here at Emerson will make tolerance the norm in our years beyond this institution.
 
The call for societal awareness regarding issues of gender is relatively recent. While Emerson College is among 150 schools across the United States that proudly provide gender-inclusive restrooms, there is still work that needs to be done to normalize non-binary genders. As we are just starting, many of us lack everyday experience with accommodations for those who identify outside the binary. However, there is no excuse to be anything but respectful of people’s preferences and identities.
 
Emerson’s new bathroom policy marks that start. As it stands as a physical symbol of tolerance, it speaks for the morals that Emerson tries to uphold rather than creating a new set of standards for us to catch up to. Equality, compassion, and innovation are a part of the reason Emerson students are proud to stand by their school. If this positivity were to ripple-effect to the “outside world,” people would be much prouder and happier to be apart of it.
 
Sam Amore, a junior journalism major, identifies as transgender. They plan to work with the journalism department to push policy for faculty to undergo training, to better create spaces for those who identify outside of the gender binary.
 
“It shouldn’t be on the students to educate professors,” Amore said. “I am tired of being in a class where I have to make my own space.”
 
Amore said that they would like to see peers of the entire gender spectrum able to correct one another.
 
“Students doing that for other students would make the ideal learning space,” Amore said.
 
Don’t hesitate to correct yourself and politely push accuracy onto others. It can be quick, easy, and painless, and it is appreciated more than you know. Plastic signs do not change intolerance—it takes people, and the little, everyday efforts to apply new social practices to produce positive change.