LGBTQ stands up for all-gender restrooms

The LGBTQ community at Bellevue College kicked off its history month with a  town hall on Thursday, Oct. 1 in N201. “The LGBTQ History Month is a celebration and recognition of LGBTQ individuals’ contributions to both American and global history,” said Craig Hurd-McKenney, a co-adviser to the LGBTQ Resource Center.

The focus for BC’s LGBTQ community this year are the all-gender restrooms that were established this summer. A Town Hall Meeting was organized to help people understand why these changes are happening and to address any questions or concerns that people have.

Master of Public Health, Melissa Tumas, speaks at the townhall.
Master of Public Health, Melissa Tumas, speaks at the townhall.

“Our students have been fighting for all-gender restrooms for more than 10 years. We are helping students who are fighting for their human rights,” explained Natalie Martinez, English profesor, the LGBTQ History Month co-programmer.

“To me, it is advocacy. It is a basic human right that people can use the bathrooms without being harassed,” said Martinez.

Transgender students and staff face discrimination and harassment when they try to use restrooms that match their chosen sexuality.

A National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report showed that there was an 11 percent increase in anti-LGBTQ homicides in 2014.The report stated that those facing the highest risk of homicide are transgender women, people of color and gay men. The shared restroom is expected to help curb discrimination and make bathrooms accessible to all students and staff regardless of their gender identity.

“The introduction of the all-gender restrooms to Bellevue College is in line with title IX, which prevents gender based discrimination by any educational institution that receives federal funding and makes gender identity discrimination a form of sex discrimination,” said Rachel Wellman the title IX compliance coordinator for Bellevue College’s Office of Equity and Pluralism.

“The City of Seattle has passed a law that all public spaces, whether city-run or private business, has to designate any new single-occupancy restrooms as gender neutral,” discussed Wellman. “Fundamentally, we need all-gender restrooms because people need an accessible and safe place to use the toilet.”

The City of Seattle also plans on creating more all-gender restrooms.  The newly amended Seattle Municipal Code will be applied to new and existing City facilities, which will allow any person, regardless of their gender identity, to use them.

These restrooms will be for single occupant use and new signage will be used.

In coordination with this law, the Bellevue College map is being updated to reflect the new changes and the all-gender restrooms.

There is a plan to remodel more restrooms as all-gender throughout the campus.

The town hall meeting ended with bystander intervention training, to teach attendees how to handle conflict that might arise with transgender students while they use the all-gender bathrooms.

The LGBTQ community in Bellevue College believes having accessible restrooms is a human right that everyone deserves to have and the new all-gender restrooms in BC will bring about a positive change.