The LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer) community has been a hot topic the past few years.
In December 2013, Hawai‘i became the 15th state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. Then Twitter went all out in 2015 to show its support for the LGBTQ community with the hashtag #LoveWins when the U.S. Supreme Court officially ended the ban on same-sex marriage.
The battle over transgender rights continues in 2016, with the issue of public restroom access taking the lead.
The Obama administration issued a directive in May telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities.
In 2006, Hawai‘i added gender identity to its laws banning discrimination in public accommodations. Since then, state law has given transgender people the right to use restrooms that correspond to the person’s gender identity.
Seventeen other states also have similar laws banning discrimination in public accommodations.
At least four states (Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee) have laws that restrict transgender individuals to public restrooms that correspond with their biological gender or that allow local jurisdictions to pass anti-discrimination legislation. And several states have sued the federal government over its transgender directive for school districts; they are Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
This year, UH Mānoa introduced nine all-gender restrooms to its campus. These single-stall restrooms are similar to “family restrooms” that provide both ADA accessibility and privacy.
The University of Hawai‘i system is including all-gender restrooms on all of its campuses, including UH Hilo, UH West O‘ahu and the community colleges.
“UH Mānoa is committed to ensuring a safe, respectful and diverse campus that is free from discrimination and harassment,” said UH Mānoa chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman. “The establishment of all-gender restrooms is tangible evidence of that commitment.”
WCC can expect to see four all-gender restrooms around campus in the coming weeks. Family restrooms in Hale Alaka‘i, Hale A‘o and La‘akea Duplication/Media Center will be converted to all-gender restrooms.
The family restroom located in La‘akea 3rd floor in the library will also include a baby changing station. The all-gender restrooms located at WCC are ADA accessible and provide privacy to its users.
WCC will include all-gender restrooms in any new buildings and in the renovations to current facilities.
“It is our goal to make our students, faculty and staff feel welcome and comfortable on campus,” said WCC vice chancellor of student affairs Amy Rozek. “There is no obligation to use the all-gender restrooms, but they are available to those who are not comfortable using sex-specific restrooms.”
The biggest concern that comes from all-gender restrooms is the potential risk of sexual assault on women or children. “There are many pedophiles and sexually abusive people in today’s world, sadly to say,” said WCC student Alyha Kline. “Not having a gender neutral restroom on campus will only allow females in the ladies room and males in the men’s room. It cuts out all the extra gray space for more incidents of sexual assault.”
To report an incident of sex discrimination or gender-based violence including sexual assault, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence or stalking as well as to receive information and support, students can contact Title IX coordinator Brian Pactol (firstname.lastname@example.org) , Title IX coordinator for students Amy Rozek (email@example.com) or Title IX coordinator for employees Karen Cho (firstname.lastname@example.org).
by Deborah Higa, Ka ‘Ohana Editor In Chief