When Liz Sanchez needs to use the restroom, they will use whichever facility is more convenient, regardless of what the sign on the door says.
“They’re all toilets,” said the 32-year-old Cal State Fullerton graduate student.
Sanchez majors in sociology with a minor in queer studies, and identifies as gender-queer with the pronouns “they,” “them” and “theirs.”
With tattoos covering their arms, colored hair, a punk style of dress and a number of piercings–including a septum, Sanchez draws much of their expression influence from punk culture. They also draw influence from queer culture and are an advocate for the trans and queer community.
“Gender is a spectrum of fluidity. On one end you have femininity and on the other you have masculinity,” Sanchez said. “A human being can possess both and be fluid on the spectrum. We all do it everyday.”
While Sanchez doesn’t mind which restroom they use, many other people will choose to only use women’s or men’s restrooms. People of the transgender, non-binary gender and gender non-conforming community will choose either one of the sex-segregated bathrooms or one that is gender-neutral.
On Sept. 29, Gov. Jerry Brown passed Assembly Bill 1732, which requires all single-user restrooms in business establishments, public and government places to be identified as gender-neutral.
“Those who don’t accept transgenders will be very against it and won’t think it’s a good idea, while those who do agree with it are going to say it’s a new advancement toward accepting everybody as equal,” said Jacqueline Rubio, a child and adolescent development major.
For Sanchez, it’s a noteworthy but very small step toward making a difference for the community. The new law is like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound, they said.
“All they’re doing is changing a sign,” Sanchez said. “It’s not going to prevent the violence that the community experiences.”
While AB-1732 is not a solution to all problems that the trans and queer community face, people still view it as progress.
“Gender-neutral restrooms create safer spaces and prevent discrimination, harassment and acts of violence toward the transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming community,” said Chris Datiles, coordinator of the LGBTQ Resource Center via email. “Additionally, gender-neutral restrooms contribute to mental and emotional well-being as they are affirming of one’s gender identity.”
When those in the community are forced to choose between gender-specific facilities, their identities may be compromised.
“It’s more confusing because they may associate one way but appear to be another. It adds more burdens to them,” said Stephen Fink, 30, a cinema and television arts major. “They’re already trying to go through understanding who they are or who they have been.”
There are nine gender-neutral restrooms on campus, and a map of their locations with a list of specific floors and buildings that can be found on the ASI website.
“In this academic year, CSUF has made progress by changing all single-stall restrooms in the student health center and residential halls to be gender-neutral,” Datiles said.
The Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs is currently overseeing the changing of all single-stall bathrooms on campus to being gender neutral. This is to operate in accordance with both the law and an ASI Resolution passed in March 2016 in support of the LGBTQ community on campus.
Some of the unisex restrooms are not single-stall, like the one on the second floor of the Titan Student Union.
It contains one closed stall with a toilet and one urinal without a door or panel. The door that used to be there was recently removed “due to code compliance needs” as stated on a note left on the door of the restroom.
“They took down the stall door to the urinal in the gender-neutral bathroom,” said Megan Muller, a student involved in the LGBTQ community. “Among my transgender and other-gendered friends and myself, who personally uses the gender-neutral bathroom, we think it’s an invasion of privacy.”
The bill’s passing runs counter to the 19 states that considered restricting access to restrooms, locker rooms and other sex-segregated spaces on the basis of biological sex.
In March of this year, North Carolina amended House Bill 2, mandating that people use bathrooms and changing facilities corresponding to the biological sex stated on their birth certificate, regardless of whether it is single or multiple-occupancy.
While gender-neutral restrooms allow people to affirm their identities, Sanchez said that the real issue is still violence against the trans and queer community.
According to a 2013 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA, 70 percent of the transgender and gender non-conforming people who participated in the survey reported experiencing denied access to gender-segregated restrooms, verbal harassment or some form of physical assault. Sixty-eight percent of respondents reported being verbally harassed, 18 percent reported being denied access and nine percent reported being physically assaulted.
“It’ll help individuals, because violence does occur in the bathrooms but more so against the transgender people,” Sanchez said. “Having single-stalls that you can lock and feel protected, hopefully, is somewhat helpful. But even then, you’re going to have to unlock it eventually.”
Sanchez emphasizes that education is the main solution to discrimination against the community.
“If someone’s going to be violent, they’re going to do it,” Sanchez said. “We need to address education. We need to maybe reform our hate crimes and the laws surrounding those issues. We need to address masculinity just as we talk about femininity. We talk about trying to prevent violence against women, but we need to talk about why violence occurs.”