As Transgender Awareness month comes to a close, some students are pushing for more gender-neutral bathrooms around campus.
At the Lake Shore Campus (LSC) and Water Tower Campus (WTC), Loyola has 11 gender-neutral bathrooms and five gendered bathrooms intended for single occupancy use. On the LSC, there are gender neutral bathrooms in the Damen Student Center, Coffey Hall, Mundelein Center, Cuneo Hall, Madonna Della Strada Chapel, San Francisco Hall, De Nobili Hall, Mertz Hall, Fordham Hall and Fairfield Hall. There is also one located on the WTC in the Terry Student Center.
Single occupant female restrooms are located on the LSC in Mundelein Center and on the WTC in the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA). There are also three single occupant male restrooms located on the LSC in Mundelein Center and Coffey Hall and at the WTC at LUMA.
The gender-neutral bathrooms, which are not intended for one specific gender, were first pushed for by Loyola students in 2014 by the Unified Student Government Association.
But now, students who use these bathrooms regularly think they should be in every building.
Frankie Flores, a freshman transgender student who uses the bathrooms everyday, said he thinks it would be helpful if there were more around campus.
Flores uses the gender-neutral bathrooms because he feels safer using them than he feels using gendered bathrooms.
“I feel safe enough to use [the bathroom] without someone following me in and interrogating me or hurting me because they think I don’t belong in the men’s restroom,” he said.
To increase that safety for students, all the signs for gender-neutral bathrooms on campus were changed from unisex to gender neutral, according to Vice President for Student Development Jane Neufeld.
But Neufeld said adding a bathroom where it doesn’t already exist would be expensive.
Due to this obstacle, Loyola currently doesn’t have any plans to add more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, Neufeld said.
Jo Cepeda, a sophomore political science and ad/PR double major, said they — Cepeda’s preferred pronoun — thinks more gender neutral bathrooms should be added to both campuses.
“I think the school should try their best to be inclusive to all gender identities, and gender-neutral bathrooms are one of the few places that are open literally to everybody, with no barriers,” said Cepeda. “I think that the less barriers there are, the better it is for everybody.”
The office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (SDMA) is working hard to break those barriers.
SDMA, located in the Damen Student Center, works with LGBTQIA — Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual — students by providing them with help and resources.
One such resource is Safe Space Workshops. The department’s Safe Space Workshops are “introductory sessions that work to assist individuals who wish to support the LGBTQIA community of Loyola University Chicago,” according to SDMA’s website.
Neufeld said the Office for Student Development works closely with SDMA to support LGBTQIA students.
“That space is a great safe haven for many of our students,” she said.
SDMA has initiatives intended to help students feel more comfortable in the community. These initiatives, called the Q-Initiatives, include retreats in the LUREC campus and monthly programs at The Coffee Shop that connect the LGBTQIA community at Loyola to the Rogers Park neighborhood.
Holden said the department is open to suggestions if students feel there is more the university should do to address the needs of LGBTQIA students.
Flores said he thinks there can be something for people to do to show they support transgender people.
Flores suggested wearing a pin to show transgender students that the community supports them.
“[Students can] show they don’t care what bathroom you use if you choose to use a gender-neutral bathroom [by wearing a] pin that says ‘I’ll walk in with you,’” Flores said.
Cepeda, who uses gender-neutral bathrooms every day, said they think Loyola does a lot for the LGBTQIA community but there is room for improvement.
“I think we should expand education on LGBTQIA issues so that all students go into interactions with LGBTQIA people informed, and the expansion of gender neutral bathrooms would also help facilitate more awareness about the issue,” Cepeda said.