A recent example combining constuction and student life shows how Keene State College strives to be have a modern, up-to-date and progressive community. Over the past year, when the new Learning Living Communities dormitories were built, gender-neutral bathrooms were included in the building.
KSC Associate Director for Facilities and Business Operations James Carley said the college is adhering to changing times.
He explained, “The public is glad to have this decision in the new dorms. I don’t think this is considered out-of-the-ordinary any more.”
Carley added, “Going forward, this is what we strive for, for every student to feel safe and comfortable.”
With the LLC sparking the idea of full gender-neutral bathrooms, what’s next? Carley said, “In any future construction, gender-neutral bathrooms will be essential.”
In fact, the LLC is not the first building on the campus to include gender-neutral bathrooms. Program Support Assistant for LGBTQ students Hunter Kirschner said that almost every building on campus offers at least one non-gender specific bathroom.
However, the LLC is the first building that has full gender-neutral bathrooms, and these include showers.
Kirschner said, “It is really scary and risky to be away from home and be somewhere you don’t know folks, and then have to shower publicly. Identifying as transgender adds a whole other layer of fear and anxiety to that.”
Kirschner said, “It’s similar to having doors with the buttons and bathrooms for people with handicaps, just a different population.”
He continued, “People now have a private space and accommodations to make life easier and more comfortable.”
If a student does not feel comfortable using single-sex bathrooms, Kirschner has put together a gender-neutral inventory for the campus. On the inventory is a list of every gender-neutral bathroom on campus, with a map included.
Kirshner said, “It has sparked the conversation across campus about needing these facilities and how they’re supportive for transgender students, as well as other students.
Students should be worrying about school work, not where to go to the bathroom or feeling safe.” The gender-neutral bathrooms allow for a more open and knowledgeable conversation for the entire campus. For some students, it doesn’t make much change for them.
Juliet Karam, a first-year student living in the LLC said, “My floor actually changed them to just a men and women’s bathroom because no one felt the need for a gender-neutral bathroom, but I think it’s great that it was at least offered as an option.”
Karam also said that most of the other floors decided to keep the bathrooms as gender-neutral.
Another KSC first-year student Colleen Bates saids, “While I personally feel comfortable using a gender-specific bathroom, I think it’s great that gender-neutral bathrooms are now an option for those who need it. Everyone should feel comfortable using public bathrooms; I can’t imagine having to deal with that anxiety on top of school.”
KSC first-year Katie Maguire said college is a better time for many people to find their identity.
“After high-school, you’re not as judged in college, so you’re starting out fresh,” she said. Maguire said she personally knows someone who identifies as transgender and finds that the community at KSC is very open and welcoming to the idea.
“I see it mostly in my classes. Teachers know to ask people’s names and to be accepting,” Maguire said.
Maguire continued that she doesn’t feel like KSC’s community is nitpicky or mean. She said, “I don’t see cliques. I just see different people in groups.”
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org