Yale OKs gender-neutral bathrooms, joining 150+ college trend

In addition to the gender-neutral bathroom, Yale will allow transgender graduates to use on the diploma their preferred name rather than the name on their birth certificate.

Pat Eaton-Robb/AP/File
Woolsey Hall stands on the Yale University campus on Wednesday, April 27, 2016.

In what appears to be a growing trend in colleges and schools across the nation, Yale has decided to introduce gender-neutral bathrooms.

The school is promoting the policy changes on it website ahead of its 315th commencement. And in addition, Yale will also allow transgender graduates to use on the diploma their preferred name rather than the name on their birth certificate, according to the Associated Press.

Yale now joins the list of more than 150 US colleges and universities that have changed their policies in recognition of transgender rights according to Time. Last fall, Harvard University introduced a measure that will allow transgender students to choose their preferred gender pronoun, from a list of gender-neutral identifiers such as “ze, hir, and hirs. The school also allows sophomore, junior and senior students to choose houses corresponding with the gender they identify with. Other colleges such as the Illinois State University and Northwestern University have adopted similar measures.

The new Yale bathrooms will read "All Gender Restroom," with the traditional man and woman figures next to a figure wearing pants on one leg and a dress on the other, the Associated Press reported.

Many colleges and universities work hard at improving diversity and inclusion on campus. And colleges are often a hot bed of political and civil rights activism, so the trend toward LGBT rights on campus may not be surprising to some.

But the move by Yale also comes at a time of a heated debate regarding transgender rights among some states.  North Carolina has taken measures to deemed as discriminatory to transgender people. The state is facing a backlash from celebrities and corporations following the passage of its bathroom bill that prohibits state agencies from allowing people to use public restrooms and changing rooms that do not match the gender on their birth certificate.

Several advocates of gender-neutral bathrooms are framing the bathroom issue as one that concerns all, not just transgender people. Disability activists argue that gender-neutral bathrooms can be beneficial for people with disabilities, especially those who may often require assistance from family members who are not of the same gender, according to the Huffington Post.

And for others it the safety concern that is driving the changes. Nearly 70 percent of transgender people said they had experienced verbal harassment in gender-segregated bathrooms, while about 10 percent reported physical assault, according to a study conducted by the University of California’s Williams Institute.

One 16-year old student told the Los Angeles Times that he can go a whole day without using the bathroom for fear of being harassed.

"Being questioned about my gender when I go to use the restroom makes me feel uncomfortable," Alonzo Hernandez, who transitioned from female to male last year told the Times. "I just want to be able to, you know, use the restroom without being questioned.

Last week the Obama administration issued, a guidance to all public schools in the country, instructing school officials to allow students to use bathrooms facilities that correspond to their gender identity.

No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” John B. King Jr., the secretary of the Department of Education, said in a statement. “We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

"There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex," said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in the statement. "This guidance gives administrators, teachers, and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies.

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