College of DuPage opens 1st gender-neutral bathrooms

 
 
Updated 10/24/2015 10:21 AM

GLEN ELLYN, Ill. -- The College of DuPage in suburban Chicago has opened its first gender-neutral bathrooms after years of petitioning.

The single-stall bathrooms are meant to help students of all genders and gender identities feel more comfortable. Rather than being marked with a silhouetted man or woman, the gender-neutral bathrooms are designated with the image of a toilet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

People who need help from an attendant of the opposite gender also have the option of using the bathrooms.

The current gender-neutral bathrooms are at the college's Health and Science Center, the Physical Education Center and Chaparral Fitness center. More are planned including at the Berg Instructional Center and the McAninch Arts Center, said Earl Dowling, the school's vice president of student affairs.

The process of making a bathroom gender-neutral can be complex, Dowling said, depending on the level of remodeling needed. He said converting the current gender-neutral bathrooms was relatively simple, with new signage being the only cost at about $150 per every two bathrooms.

According to Dowling, school administrators began to seriously pursue creating gender-neutral bathrooms last year. Student affairs officials brought up the idea, as did the college's athletic director, who told Dowling about an elderly man who couldn't change after using the pool without help from his wife.

Transgender student Sara Smollen told the Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/1Kkrl3p ) that having the new bathrooms "definitely makes a difference."

While working at her bookstore job before her transition, Smollen said she would wait until the store cleared out to use the men's bathroom to avoid running into someone. She started using the women's bathroom after her transition, but said it felt just as uncomfortable.

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"I am so glad that they're kind of realizing the necessity of this," she said.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com

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