Single-use restrooms relabeled as gender neutral under new legislation

All single-user restroom facilities in any public place are required to have signs changed and identified as gender neutral due to a new law passed in California this year.

The Equal Restroom Access Act, which was passed March 1, states that all single-user restrooms must be gender inclusive. The state acknowledged people who do not identify as male or female by ensuring that restrooms in places of public accommodation should have signs stating “Restroom” or “Gender-Neutral,” according to the Equal Restroom Access Act.

Cosumnes River College has 22 single-user bathrooms around the main campus, but only five of them are accessible to students, said Anthropology Professor Anastasia Panagakos.

“We’ve had students come to us and tell us they’ve been harassed in bathrooms,” Panagakos said. “People didn’t think that they belonged in there because they didn’t think that their gender identity matched the bathroom.”

The Academic Senate is trying to make two single-user bathrooms in the Learning Resource Center accessible to students, as they are currently for staff only.

“We’re trying to work something out to see if we can get those bathrooms redesignated so that anyone can use them,” Panagakos said. “What really needs to happen is there needs to be more single-user bathrooms in the central part of campus that people can use.”

Panagakos said that the Faculty Senate is trying to get two bathrooms located in the Learning Resource Center to become accessible to students as it is designated for staff only. While this was the initial proposal, an amendment was made to make one staff only bathroom available to students in the LRC. The Academic Senate will move forward in implementing the amended version of the proposal.

“I’ve noticed, as the Faculty Union president, that management in the past two years has become less responsive to facilities requests by faculty because of the challenges of constant construction on campus,” said History Professor Jason Newman.

Jesse Cortez, a 20-year-old psychology major, expressed his support in favor of having gender-neutral restrooms on campus.

“I feel like there is no need to discriminate when it comes about gender-neutral restrooms,” Cortez said. “Everybody is entitled to use the facility which they feel most comfortable in.”

Buildings on campus such as the Winn Center take years of planning, which is why it is difficult to make any new changes to buildings, Panagakos said.

Other Los Rios campuses like Sacramento City College have also been advocating for new buildings to have public single-user bathrooms.

The new law states that during inspection, a health officer or inspector is subject to examine for compliance, according to Bill AB-1732.

“It’s not just about people who don’t strictly identify as male or female, we also have situations where students are on campus with their children and they may not feel comfortable sending them,” said Panagakos.

Other students, such as 22-year-old liberal arts major Emily Thompson, expressed the need to have the signs changed.

“I think that if changing the signs provides more clarity and comfort to whomever uses those restrooms, then I don’t see a problem with it and it helps our campus take another step toward equality and inclusiveness,” said Thompson.  

CORRECTION: While making two single-use staff only restrooms in the Learning Resource Center were initially proposed to be made available to students, the proposal was amended and the Academic Senate will move forward in making one of the bathrooms available to students.