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Newly neutral: Hillel installs gender nonspecific bathrooms

We won!
We won!

Lauren Fine, the student leadership coordinator at Hillel, said installing the bathrooms was necessary to keep up to date with the needs of students.

“Something that we like to say at Hillel is that we are the Jewish home on campus, so our doors are always open and everyone is always welcome to come in and ideally feel like they’re at home,” Fine said. “So we knew that with our bathrooms being gender binary that we were excluding people from feeling at home.”

Fine said there has been a trend in Jewish communities toward making buildings more inclusive, and Hillel is excited to be a part of that trend.

“I think really it is about making sure students feel comfortable and safe,” Fine said. “It is something that other people don’t have to think about, and that makes it really easy to just push aside like it’s not a big deal — but it’s a huge deal.”

Terri Phoenix, director of UNC’s LGBTQ Center, said gender nonspecific bathrooms help make people feel more comfortable.

“First of all, they benefit people who are transgender or gender nonconforming: whose gender expression doesn’t conform to what people’s expectations are about males and females,” Phoenix said.

“It also benefits people who have small children of a different gender than they. And it also benefits people who have disabilities and who have personal care attendants who are of a different gender than they.”

The LGBTQ Center helped Hillel make its goal a reality. The two organizations exchanged ideas about which bathrooms to change and how best to educate the community about gender nonspecific bathrooms.

Aaron Lovett, programming chairperson of the Sexuality and Gender Alliance, said his organization supports Hillel’s decision.

Lovett said he didn’t want to presume how a transgender person might feel, but he said he thinks there is a slightly uncomfortable attitude towards gender nonconforming individuals on campus.

“It’s really just about allowing trans and non-binary people to go into spaces where they feel comfortable and to be able to operate in everyday life just like everyone else,” he said.

The newly neutral bathrooms are both on Hillel’s second floor. Since there are two stalls in each bathroom, a lock was installed to the inside doors so visitors can make the bathroom single-use if they prefer.

“Honestly, I was shocked when I heard how few gender neutral bathrooms there were on campus,” Fine said. “And so I knew that it was a priority for us, especially since you can do it for such little money, for the cost of installing locks and signs.”

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