KU center promoting one-person, gender-neutral restrooms this week

If you’ve stopped by a restroom at KU’s Sabatini Multicultural Resource Center — or, at certain times, the Kansas Union — and seen a sign out front labeling it as a “single-use, gender-neutral restroom,” you may have wondered what that was about.

What it means is that any individual may use it, regardless of gender. And the signs are there because of a campaign by the KU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center to create more restrooms in that format across campus.

The promotion, which is running this week, coincides with Transgender Awareness Month. Michael Detmer, a grad student who serves as resource coordinator for the LGBT Resource Center, says traditional men’s or women’s public restrooms can create uncomfortable situations, or even lead to harassment, for transgendered people and others who don’t fit precisely into the categories of male or female. These gender-neutral restrooms provide a “safe space” for them, he said.

The center has been working for a few years to convert single-person restrooms around campus to the gender-neutral format, which Detmer said would also allow them to be used as family restrooms for people with children. The effort is taking some time, he said, because there is effort and cost involved in identifying restrooms that will work and in changing signs.

For now, the group has turned all the restrooms in the Multicultural Resource Center gender-neutral through tomorrow. Restrooms on the fourth floor of the Union underwent the switch for two hours earlier this week during an LGBT Resource Center event, and it will happen again from noon to 1 p.m. tomorrow during a visit from Stephanie Mott of the Kansas Equality Coalition, an LGBT rights group.