U of M student group pushes for gender-neutral bathrooms in every building

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A student group at the University of Minnesota is pushing for gender-neutral bathrooms in every building on campus, and encouraging businesses around the university to switch their single-stall restrooms to gender neutral.

On the University of Minnesota campus, there are more than 130 gender-neutral restrooms, most of which are single-stall and wheelchair accessible, the university's website says.

The GLBTA Programs Office and Transgender Commission and Facilities Management have a detailed map of the gender-neutral restrooms for those who want to use them.

But there are still buildings and areas of the campus that don't have that option.

For people who seek them out this can be a health issue, Lars Mackenzie, who identifies as transgender, told the Minnesota Daily. That's why the student-run group Safe 2 Pee is working to make sure all buildings on campus have a gender-neutral restroom.

“For a lot of people, it doesn’t seem like a problem,” Mackenzie told the Minnesota Daily, “but it’s a huge, constant stressor for people who don’t feel safe using sex-segregated spaces.”

Safe 2 Pee also hopes at least 15 businesses near campus switch their single-user restrooms to gender neutral in the coming year, the newspaper says.

Schools, cities address gender-neutral concerns

The push at the U of M comes shortly after Minneapolis changed its rules on single-user restrooms.

Up until this fall, the city required businesses to have separate restrooms for each gender, but a rule change makes it so businesses with singe-stall restrooms no longer need to have them be gender specific. The city also began encouraging them to make their single-stall restrooms gender neutral when possible, improving access for everyone, including those who identify as transgender.

The Huffington Post reported the number of gender-neutral restrooms in the country has grown in the past few years, including city-run facilities, workplaces and most commonly on college campuses. The University of Massachusetts-Amherst's Stonewall Center said there are more than 150 schools across the United States that have gender-neutral bathrooms.

High schools around the state are also looking to make people who identify as transgender more accepted. The Minnesota State High School League plans to vote on a proposed policy Thursday that would allow student athletes to play for the team that matches the gender they identify with.

This has sparked intense reaction and debate in recent weeks, and as a result the MSHSL board plans to discuss the proposal at a workshop Wednesday ahead of Thursday's vote.

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