PCC students advocate for all-gender restrooms
The Washington County Public Affairs Program hosted a special session last Thursday evening at PCC Rock Creek, focusing on the experiences of transgender, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming students, and particularly the need for all-gender, multi-stall restrooms at the Rock Creek campus.
Rylie Wolff, a third-year PCC student who identifies as nonbinary (meaning they do not identify as exclusively male or female, but instead identify outside the gender binary) and uses they/them pronouns, and Weston Figueroa, a first-year student who identifies as transgender and uses he/him pronouns, presented information and fielded questions from a small group for about forty-five minutes.
Titled, "Why All User Restrooms," Wolff and Figueroa's talk centered on the need for multi-stall, all-gender restrooms on every PCC campus. PCC's Southeast campus opened such a restroom earlier this year, and the Cascade campus has plans to open one next month.
The pair cited a 2013 survey that found PCC to have the most transgender and nonbinary students of any community college in Oregon, and that about 1 in 35 students at PCC identify as trans or nonbinary.
"Most of my classes range from 20 to 35 students," Wolff said. "I know that I am at least one of those students at all times, but I know that there are more."
As Wolff and Figueroa pointed out, trans and nonbinary people often experience anxiety around using public restrooms, with some going so far as to monitor their food and drink intake during the day so as to avoid using them altogether. Figueroa said he could relate to that as a transgender man.
"I've had to wait, or have had to make the decision between my anxiety of being late to class, versus my priority of needing to use the restroom," he said. "I need to focus on school, rather than just 'where can I use the bathroom?'"
Wolff added that because they identify as nonbinary, being forced to choose between two gendered restroom options can be difficult — and that having a single-stall all-user option available wasn't practical.
"I think the biggest thing in that is to have a safe place to use the restroom," Wolff said. "I can express my own frustration when the one single-stall all-user restroom is occupied for who knows how long. … I am either forced to make the choice to be late to class or a meeting, or misgender myself by using a restroom I don't identify with, and putting myself in a dangerous situation."
After Wolff and Figueroa delivered their remarks, they opened the floor to questions from forum members and PCC students and community members.
When asked why PCC Rock Creek does not yet have plans for a multi-stall, all-user restroom, despite other campuses already opening them, the students said that building codes in Washington County made it difficult for the school to convert current gendered restrooms into all-user restrooms.
J Gibbons, a staff member at the Southeast campus' Queer Resource Center who uses they/them pronouns, chimed in to elaborate.
"Our building codes do not reflect the lived reality and richness of people's identities," Gibbons said, later adding that, "They only talk about male and female. In the building codes, folks that are nonbinary don't even exist. … This is, in some ways, unchartered territory, because the building codes don't talk about what an all-gender, all-user restroom is."
Gibbons added that at PCC Southeast, the campaign for all-gender restrooms intentionally took things slowly, so that they could have time to educate everyone on campus about the issue.
Another forum member asked if Wolff and Figueroa thought that all restrooms should become all-gender, so as to eliminate the stigma and make things easier for people.
"I do think that there are people, women, that would not want to share a space with 'cisgendered' men, and other safety reasons," Wolff said, using a term that means identifying with the sex one was assigned at birth. "People should be able to self-select, because we're all individuals and we all have our preferences. This isn't about taking away anyone else's right to choose what space they want, but opening up a space for other people."
Figueroa echoed Wolff's point, emphasizing that adding all-gender restrooms was a step to give people more options, rather than limiting them.
"We're not taking anyone's autonomy away," he said. "We just want to have inclusivity."