Gender neutral bathrooms come to fruition around campus


Along with their current locations, a gender neutral bathroom is under construction in Caudell Hall, too.

Benjamin Joe, Online Editor

Katie Bertel, an outreach and engagement librarian, makes sure all the needs of the library users are met, and this includes gender-neutral bathrooms. When a transgender teenage roller derby player committed suicide last year, Bertel decided to take action.

“A lot of it had to do with a lack of tolerance and inclusion from the family,” Bertel said. “It was kind of inspired by that tragic event. I realized we had to do more on this campus so people could feel included and didn’t feel that they were being left out or that they were not being served and accepted.”

So far, not many people know about the new facilities, but some have gotten in contact with Bertel and made some positive affirmations for the action, as well as volunteering help for any future projects.

The new facilities are located in Bishop Hall, Bulger Communication Center, E.H. Butler Library, Campbell Student Union, Houston Gym, Science and Mathematics Complex, South Wing, Technology Building, Upton Hall and Weigel Health Center. A gender neutral bathroom location is also currently under construction in Caudell Hall.

“I’m now trying to make students aware of it,” Bertel said. “Making sure people know about the resource guide that I created and aware of all the gender neutral bathrooms on campus.”

Jeffrey Scharoun is a higher education student affairs administrator who works with LGBTQ issues. He said that gender neutral spaces are becoming a “hot topic.”

“There’s definitely been a need, but there hasn’t been a calling for those spaces previously in history because now we are seeing more and more of our transgender community coming out. This is a very recent issue and one that is very hard to facilitate,” He said.

Scharoun said it “takes a lot of courage,” to ask for these spaces, and he’s encouraged by SUNY Buffalo State for taking these actions. He explained, like he does for his classes, that if he were to ask his students to wear the opposite gender’s clothing for a week, the feeling of oddness would be very much what transgender people feel every day. He said that the basic difference between “sex” and “gender” has to be understood, sex being how we’re born, and gender being how we feel inside. However, he said that we have a long way to go as a world to accepting transgender people as equals.

Today, Bertel hopes that the gender neutral bathrooms will be a start to helping LGBTQ community members feel that they are accepted as individuals and as a group. She said that future initiatives would be coming soon including gender neutral housing.

If anyone would like to be more involved, contact Katie Bertel at [email protected].

email: [email protected]