Last Friday, Sept. 26, Students Against Sexism in Society (S.A.S.S) initiated a “genderfuck” by gender-neutralizing the restrooms near Ferris Lounge in Seymour. The group is hoping to make using the facilities easier for transgendered individuals, and make those who are not transgendered more aware of the difficulties faced in daily life by those who are.
When many people walk into a gender-specific restroom everyday, the only thing on their mind is relieving their bladders. For transgendered people, however, the act of walking into a restroom is a heavier task. They are forced to choose between options they do not always feel comfortable with and their security is jeopardized.
“[In the gender binary], gender is split into one or two boxes; you’re either a male or female. The problem with gender is that it’s a lot more fluid than just male or female. A lot of people don’t identify as strictly one or the other,” sophomore and S.A.S.S member Amelia Garcia said.
One purpose of the genderfuck is “to be more open-minded to the differences in people,” Garcia said. Senior Rachael Goodman-Williams, S.A.S.S. president, said they are, “trying to add an option for people who did not have one before. We’re not taking away an option.”
In the interest of providing options, “If [people] don’t like it there are gendered bathrooms downstairs, and they can keep using those. Also, there is a single-stall, unisex [disabled] restroom available,” said freshman S.A.S.S. member Michael Martinez.
While S.A.S.S. expects that people who fit within the gender binary may not feel comfortable using gender-neutralized restrooms, this discomfort is what transgendered people have to face everyday. Freshman S.A.S.S. member Peter Thomas, said that the genderfuck has roused more student support than it has opposition.
Some students have expressed concern about the awkward moments they might encounter when they are in the restroom with a member of the opposite sex. Freshman Charley Deutsch is one of the students uncomfortable using gender-neutralized restrooms.
“You are one way or the other and that’s how you have to at least physically operate. Just like gay men are attracted to men, but you still put them in the men’s bathroom, you don’t put them in the women’s bathroom,” he said.
A female student said that she initially felt uncomfortable with the idea, but then she spoke with a S.A.S.S. member about how some people wake up every day unsure of the gender role they fit. This sense of understanding put the situation in perspective. She believes the main issue students have with the genderfuck is that they just don’t understand it.
S.A.S.S. acknowledged the possibility of disapproval of the genderfuck among students, which is why members tabled last week outside of the cafeteria. Garcia said they didn’t want to catch anyone off guard or “freak anyone out.”
Goodman-Williams commented that while most people have been supportive, the signs outside of the restrooms have been ripped down several times. This action, she said, shows that people are not so much uncomfortable with the idea, but hostile to a new concept.
Last spring, two students were arrested when they took a more radical approach to the issue and removed the gender-specific signs in front of the restrooms in the Sharvy G. Umbeck Science and Math Center [SMC], with the belief that the restrooms are located in areas where a specific sex stereotypically studies.
Junior Vicky Daza was one of those arrested. Campus Safety called the Galesburg police department and the situation escalated. Daza described the punitive actions as “excessive.”
Daza said that she supports the gender neutralization of the restrooms in Seymour because every student should have a safe place on campus. “We cannot assume gender,” she said.
It was Knox’s “excessive” response to Daza’s active statement last year that has made S.A.S.S. wary of informing the administration of the genderfuck. Goodman-Williams said that she has “lost a little faith” in the administration and that S.A.S.S. is just trying to work around it for now.
“We’re not doing any kind of destruction of property, none of that. Just people going in rooms, that’s about the extent of what is happening,” said Thomas, confirming the legality of the situation.
Goodman-Williams sees the issue of transgender safety on multiple levels.
“One is an individual level to stand in solidarity with transgender people and make sure they have a safe place,” she said. “On a broader level, while I might not have a problem choosing the dress or pants symbol, I shouldn’t be forced to choose.”
S.A.S.S. is not trying to force discomfort on anyone, but trying to further instill compassion and tolerance on the Knox College campus.
“As long as there is a place for me to go to the bathroom, whatever,” said freshman Robert Carey.
Carey’s statement is a reflection what the genderfuck represents: everyone should have a safe space to take care of business.