LGBTQ Students Say More All-Gender Bathrooms Needed on IUPUI Campus

IUPUI junior Jayce Koenn has needed to pee for the past eight hours.

Only, Koenn can’t.

IUPUI’s University Tower, the building where Koenn is completing training for an on-campus job, has no public all-gender restroom. The building’s only all-gender facility, located in the 10th floor student lounge, is only accessible to Tower residents.

Koenn, who identifies as non-binary, or neither male nor female, prefers gender-neutral, they/them/their pronouns. Koenn is one of the more than 3,000 undergraduates who identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer) on the IUPUI campus, according to the IUPUI Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s 2016 Diversity Report.

“More all-gender bathrooms would be greatly appreciated,” Koenn said, “because it was really frustrating that I couldn’t use the bathroom during an eight-hour training.”

IUPUI LGBTQ Center Director Tristan Vaught said Koenn isn’t alone in their struggle to locate an all-gender restroom on the IUPUI campus.

“Students have told me they won’t eat or drink all day because they’re afraid they won’t be able to find an all-gender restroom,” Vaught said.

When a student told Vaught there were 16 all-gender restrooms on the IUPUI campus after Vaught arrived from their previous role as LGBTQ program coordinator at the University of Cincinnati, Vaught initially misheard. Vaught misheard the 16 IUPUI all-gender restrooms as 60 and was shocked at how few all-gender restrooms IUPUI has.

IUPUI student Sylvia Thomas celebrates the addition of an all-gender bathroom on the IUPUI campus. / Photo courtesy of Sylvia Thomas.

IUPUI student Sylvia Thomas celebrates the addition of an all-gender bathroom on the IUPUI campus. / Photo courtesy of Sylvia Thomas.

“ I was like, ‘I come from an institution where I have students protesting that they have 60 [now 87, according to the University of Cincinnati LGBTQ Center], and they need more because there’s not one in every building.’”

14 percent of IUPUI undergraduates identify as LGBTQ, according to the 2016 IUPUI Diversity Report. This means the IUPUI campus has approximately one all-gender restroom for every 192 LGBTQ students.

Vaught said that while there are 16 all-gender restrooms at IUPUI, two of them are located in Taylor Hall.

“It would be nice to have one all-gender restroom in every building,” Vaught said.

Restroom access for transgender students has been a contentious issue in 2017. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, state legislators in 16 states proposed laws that would restrict multiuser restroom access on the basis of sex assigned at birth.   

The Obama administration required schools to allow transgender individuals to use bathroom facilities based on their gender identity rather than their sex at birth, threatening the loss of federal funds if schools refused to comply.

President Donald Trump withdrew that directive on Feb. 22, returning restroom policy-making power to the hands of states and individual school districts

Koenn said all-gender restrooms are crucial for non-binary individuals. According to the 2016 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, genderqueer individuals were physically assaulted and harassed by police more often than any other members of the LGBTQ population in the past year.

“There’s a lot of work still to be done,” Koenn said.