The University of New Orleans is an educational institution nationally-acclaimed and celebrated for its diversity, as well as its commitment to preserving said diversity between all ethnic groups, religious groups, creeds, and gender identities. In the spirit of this camaraderie, UNO has recently implemented the installation of gender-neutral restrooms around campus. The UNO Diversity Cabinet and Unity (the university’s LGBT-plus organization) have spearheaded this change, teaming up with other members of faculty and staff to create a cohesive and cooperative environment that fosters understanding.
Anna Gowin, president of Unity, said the university was inspired to implement this gender-neutral bathroom policy as an effort to recognize all gender identities, as seen on a national scale.
“There’s been a national push towards eliminating gendered restrooms, especially on campuses and in public spaces. That, combined with a push from Unity and the Diversity Cabinet really showed the university that gender-neutral restrooms are a welcome change at UNO.”
The gender-neutral restrooms are not solely designated for the use of university students. Gowin believes that their presence can serve a broader scope of individuals, explaining that these gender-neutral restrooms “are for everyone. Faculty, students, even visitors to campus. While transgender and non-binary students will obviously benefit a lot from the addition of the bathrooms, they’re not the only ones. Single parents, for instance, and other members of the incredibly diverse student body at UNO.”
Eight gender-neutral restrooms will be introduced to the campus—specifically four additions to the International Center, one addition on the first floor of the library, and three in the Education building (one on each floor). While eight restrooms may not seem like much now, it is a step towards including all gender identities and needs on campus, making them a valuable asset to university life and student well-being.
While the gender-neutral restrooms are certainly new additions to campus, the actual facilities themselves are not new at all, so the transition from single-user to gender-neutral restrooms is made much easier.
“All of the bathrooms are single user restrooms that have always existed, but were previously gender-divided. The only change that had to be made to designate them as gender-neutral was a change in the sign.”
The change will only affect a few restrooms currently, but Gowin hopes in the near future that more will be prevalent on campus.
“In a perfect world, I would love to see all the bathrooms on campus be gender-neutral,” said Gowin. “But realistically, I think it would be great to have a gender-neutral bathroom in every building on campus.”
Gowin also shed light on what the university can further expect down the road in terms of fostering a more gender-neutral and inclusive environment. “The executive board has talked in the past about how much we would love to see gender-neutral housing initiatives through the dorms and Privateer Place. We’re hoping the success of the restrooms will open the door for that to become a reality. We’d also love to see the process become easier for trans and non-binary students to change their preferred name and pronouns through platforms like Moodle and Webstar.”