Mar. 24, 2017

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Kalamazoo, MI

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Est. 1877

Student Life

Gender-Neutral Restrooms Unveiled in Hicks

Signage of the Gender Neutral Restrooms in Hicks Student Center  (Sarena Brown / The Index)
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In most cases, the descriptor of trans with an asterisks, “trans*,” is meant to be a more inclusive term, enveloping identities like (but not limited to) transgender, genderqueer, and gender-fluid folks.

​Last Friday, January 15, Kalamazoo College’s counseling department sponsored a ribbon-cutting ceremony for staff and students to officially recognize the newly refinished all-gender restrooms in Hicks. These updated facilities are located next to The Richardson Room and across from the campus radio station, in the place of bathrooms previously labeled for men and for women, respectively.

Heather Dannison, a psychologist in the counseling center, worked with many people, including Director of Security Eric Wimbley, Vice President for Student Development and
Dean of Students Sarah Westfall, and Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Paul Manstrom to these gender-inclusive restrooms to K.

On the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Dannison said, “It is a simple way to say thank you to the students who asked for it and the staff who made it happen”.

Omari Oliver K’16 offers a new perspective on the additions made to the student center. “To even think about and consider that there was a ribbon cutting… I mean, it’s a bathroom. I think it is ridiculous to celebrate how ’now our trans* students can go to the bathroom’.”​

This renovation is important to K because “We all have a basic need for restrooms and for trans* students, this can be a major source of stress. I hope that more access to all-gender restrooms bring students relief and security as well,” Dannison said.

Oliver agrees that these restrooms are necessary, but has concerns with their location. “Hicks is a very visible location.” Visible in that students touring K will be shown the new restrooms as a key point on their visit.

“I’m a student. I am most often in academic buildings. There are many instances when I’ll go over to the FAB from the library, no matter how cold or rainy it is, just because the FAB has a gender-neutral bathroom, but that’s inconvenient,” Oliver said.

K College aims to place more gender-inclusive restrooms on campus moving forward.

Students questioning their gender, or who identifies as trans* may be interested in joining the weekly Trans* Support Group. Another place is with the Trans* Advisory Panel, which is a new venture that is co-facilitated by Dannison and Dean Westfall.

“The purpose of the advisory panel will be to have a direct link between students who are gender non-conforming and student development staff so we can best understand student needs and to keep working on campus inclusivity for trans* students,” Dannison said.

“I am happy to have gender-neutral bathrooms in Hicks, but in absolutely no way is it enough,” Oliver said.

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