CHICAGO – Northwestern University, a private institution in Chicago, has announced the installation of a gender-neutral, multi-stall restroom, and hopes the new facility will influence other universities to install similar restrooms on their campuses.
Northwestern University’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH) said in a recent press release that they were “thrilled to announce” the addition of the restroom.
“ISGMH is proud to be the first unit on the Northwestern campus to have a gender-neutral, multi-stall restroom, and to be a trailblazer in supporting civil and health equity,” said Francesa Gaiba, associate director of ISGMH. “We hope to inspire other universities to do the same.”
The release described Northwestern as “a leader in the gender-neutral bathroom debate” and said the new facility offers “a safe space for individuals to use the restroom.”
“Other universities have made strides in supporting the transgender and gender non-conforming community by offering single-stall, gender-neutral restrooms,” it stated. “ISGMH has taken this a step further by instating a multi-stall restroom that is open to people of all genders, however they may identify.”
Although the gender-neutral restroom is not located on the university’s main campus, but rather in a downtown Chicago building where the ISGMH’s offices are located, Northwestern University celebrated the new facility with a post on the school’s Instagram page.
“Northwestern is proud to be the first major university in #Chicago to install a multi-stall, gender neutral restroom, joining 150 other institutions across the country. #PrideMonth #LGBTQIA,” the post read, along with a picture of the “All Gender Restroom” signage on the restroom door.
A sign affixed to the new restroom door read, “Sometimes because of how people look, they aren’t allowed to use the restroom. We can do better!”
The university’s press release referenced an op-ed written by Gaiba and published last year on the website Truth-out.org. In her op-ed, Gaiba urges cities, schools, and businesses to open gender-neutral restrooms so that transgenders will not feel uncomfortable using restrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex.
“The bottom line is that going to a public bathroom is a basic human need and as our society evolves, the codes regulating our lives need to evolve with them,” Gaiba wrote.
In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Gaiba admitted that she was “taken aback” the first time she walked into a gender-neutral restroom and saw a man washing his hands, but she said she soon got used to it.
“It took me about two seconds to get over,” she said.
As previously reported, Northwestern University announced in 2014 that it would begin offering “gender open” restrooms to its students in order to be more accommodating to transgender students.
The school was originally founded by Methodists, and holds to the motto of “Quaecumque Sunt Vera,” which is Latin for “whatsoever things are true”—a phrase taken from Philippians 4:8.