U Senate approves resolution on transgender bathroom access

The resolution would allow people to use restrooms matching their gender identity.

David Clarey

The University of Minnesota Senate passed a May 5 resolution recommending increased accessibility to bathrooms and locker rooms for transgender and gender-nonconforming people.

The resolution — which passed unanimously in the Senate’s final session — recommended the University let people use restrooms consistent with their gender identities, improve visibility of gender-neutral restrooms on campus maps and label single-occupancy restrooms as gender neutral. 

The resolution also asks the University to improve bathroom access for people who need caregiver assistance and parents or guardians who help children of a different gender.

“Trans and nonconforming folks have been looking for these types of changes and policy implementations for a long time,” said Stef Wilenchek, author of the resolution and director of the University’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Ally Programs Office. 

Working with University Senate committees and the Transgender Commission — a transgender and gender-nonconforming support group — 

Wilenchek wrote the resolution based on a set of guidelines created by the Penn State University LBGTQA Student Resource Center. 

Now that the University Senate has passed the resolution, the University can decide whether to create policies based on the recommendations.

“I do think the administration is supportive. I think if everyone perceived it as a safety issue, it would be a non-issue,” said Colin Campbell, chair of the Senate’s Faculty Consultative Committee. 

While laws like North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (HB2) have jumpstarted a conversation about bathroom accessibility, Wilenchek said that “this work would be happening no matter what.”

Deena Wassenberg, outgoing chair of the Senate’s Equity, Access and Diversity Committee, said her committee met with Wilenchek before HB2 became a national concern. 

“We wanted to get an idea of what kind of environment the University campus was for students and employees who are transgender. So we asked, ‘How can we help?’” Wasenberg said.  

The resolution recommends that gender-specific, single-stall restrooms be reassigned as gender-neutral when possible.  

“There’s a segment of our population that only goes to these bathrooms, and that’s challenging,” said Campbell. “Its concerning that a student or a colleague or a staff person has to pee so bad they can’t think straight 

because they don’t think it’s safe to use that bathroom that their birth-assigned gender tells them to use.”

Jigna Desai, chair of the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, said the bill showcased the University’s belief in inclusiveness as a core value — but said more work needs to be done.

“We still have a long way to go, but I think it’s important we dedicate time and conversation and create dialogue around these issues. We still have a lot of work to do, but this really matters,” Desai said. “There’s all kind of issues that matter, but using bathrooms is one of the most basic because it addresses a human need that everyone has.”