Petition Calls For Additional Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

By Nicole Caci

A new student petition, viewable at go/peeinpeace, urges the College to make all of its bathrooms in public spaces — such as libraries, dining halls and academic buildings — gender-neutral. Octavio Hingle-Webster ’17 and Matea Mills-Andruk ’18.5 are spearheading the campaign. Hingle-Webster’s involvement is inspired by personal experience.

“During the past year I have begun my transition from being a man to being someone who is neither a man nor woman,” they said. “When I go to the bathroom I often don’t know which one to go into, and I don’t necessarily feel safe going into the men’s or women’s bathroom depending on what I am wearing or how I’m feeling that day, and I know a lot of other people share these kinds of concerns.”

Hingle-Webster’s concerns have been expressed by the transgender and gender non-conforming community in the past. As a result, gender inclusive bathrooms do exist on campus, specifically on residence halls where students decide whether or not to have them at the beginning of each semester, and in the McCullough Student Center.

In 2011, after collaborating with an ad hoc group of students that published a review of the potential student life issues for the transgender community, the College announced its plan to create more gender-neutral restrooms. The specific goal was to provide support for the safety and health of Middlebury’s transgender students, faculty and staff. By the start of the 2011-2012 academic year, the signs of all non-residential single stall restrooms were changed to include both male and female symbols, as well as the universal symbol of accessibility. But because not all spaces have single-stall bathrooms, the project was limited, and has not been thoroughly addressed since.

“There was a lot of work to get gender neutral bathrooms in place in 2011, and I truly appreciate that,” Hingle-Webster said. “But it seems like the administration conveniently [forgot] that this is still an ongoing issue for a lot of students here.”

The petition questions the College’s consistent placement of “cisgender [comfort] over the very real needs of trans and gender non conforming people in public places.”

“This is a question of safety at Middlebury, and if students are being harassed in these bathrooms, or suffering severe psychological harm, then we need to change,” Hingle-Webster said.

Hingle-Webster suggested that not only would the proposed changes make bathrooms a safer space for trans and gender non-conforming students, but it might also cause all students to question their understanding of gender as a rigid binary. Physical male-female separation is observable in many spaces, but in bathrooms that distinction is clear through signage and experienced on a daily basis.

To students who might feel uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a member of the opposite gender, Hingle-Webster suggests that gender is a construct that is based in how we see ourselves and understand ourselves to be. Despite this, rendering all bathrooms gender neutral, not just the single stall ones, would be a huge adjustment for Middlebury, and potentially sensitive for some.

Students interested in furthering the gender-neutral bathrooms mission at Middlebury should visit go/peeinpeace to read the entire petition.

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9 Comments

9 Responses to “Petition Calls For Additional Gender-Neutral Bathrooms”

  1. n o on February 19th, 2016 7:58 pm

    I’m in favor of this proposal, but I’d like to hear more about whether this would work legally in VT.

    http://reason.com/archives/2014/04/11/gender-neutral-bathrooms-building-codes

  2. Johannes Härtel on February 20th, 2016 5:42 am

    “To students who might feel uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a
    member of the opposite gender, Hingle-Webster suggests that gender is a
    construct that is based in how we see ourselves and understand ourselves
    to be.”

    What I read: “Just put some effort in adapting my worldview and you’ll be fine.” or rather: “Read Judith Butler and stop whining, cispeople.”

    Cultural determinism apologists at work.

  3. 1st Amend. on March 17th, 2016 12:33 pm

    I am amused at how the children of privilege, raised with the world as
    their playpen, have such selfish disregard for the feelings of others.

    “During the past year I have begun my transition from being a man to being someone who is neither a man nor woman,” “When I go to the bathroom I often don’t know which one to go into, and I don’t necessarily feel safe going into the men’s or women’s bathroom depending on what I am wearing or how I’m feeling that day,”

    So lets change the whole system. never mind if all bathrooms are gender free, you will encounter the same people in the bathroom. its just the sign on the door that will change.

    Having said that, I support gender free everything, but I respect cultures where gender segregation is important. I disagree personally, but people should be free to choose.

  4. Johannes Härtel on March 17th, 2016 1:21 pm

    How is Hingle-Webster a child “of privilege, raised with the world as their playpen”? O_o

  5. 1st Amend. on March 17th, 2016 1:35 pm

    Well, being white, privilege is automatic. Attending Middlebury, privilege is gained.

  6. Johannes Härtel on March 17th, 2016 1:48 pm

    Well… I do not agree with what Hingle-Webster said in the part that I quoted but I wouldn’t go as far as to dismiss whatever they say just because they are white and attend Middleburry. I mean… What kind of world would that result in?

  7. 1st Amend. on March 17th, 2016 2:00 pm

    Not dismissing at all. Remember, I agree with the idea. I just find this funny.
    “depending on what I am wearing or how I’m feeling that day,”

  8. Hannah B on February 26th, 2016 11:25 am

    PSA in case anyone reading this is unaware: The athletic center as of this year has universal locker rooms in the new track area. If you go into the main entrance and turn right, around the corner and down the stairs to the new track is a pair of locker rooms labeled “Universal.” They can be locked from the inside and include lockers, a bench, showers, and a bathroom. Anyone can go inside, change, use the facilities, and store their things. This can be a resource to anyone who feels uncomfortable in the regular locker rooms for any reason.

  9. 1st Amend. on March 17th, 2016 9:44 am

    I think this is fantastic, we have come a long way in this country when the grandchild of the man who pioneered the US Military Drone Program can set aside its white privilege in an effort to increase inclusion. We are becoming a better nation.




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Petition Calls For Additional Gender-Neutral Bathrooms