Talk about stirring the pot and flushing it too.
A student organization at the University of Massachusetts Amherst successfully raised awareness of the need for gender-neutral bathrooms by holding what was colorfully termed a “shit in.”
Earlier this week, the school’s Gender Liberation Union (GLU) occupied a majority of bathroom stalls at the Whitmore Administration Building to get university officials to give more than lip service to the rights of trans students, 20-year-old organizer, Justin Kilian, told The Huffington Post.
“We have legal protections in Massachusetts that allow people to use any bathroom they feel comfortable with,” Kilian, who is a gender and sexuality major, explained. “But having the legal ability doesn’t mean cultural ability.”
Handicapped stalls were not part of the protest so people who needed to answer nature’s call could do so after waiting in a long line.
The GLU used the “shit in” to push UMass officials to change the signage of one bathroom on each floor so that students of all genders and orientation would feel comfortable.
Kilian said when a bathroom is labeled male or female, there’s an assumption a person is making a choice of either gender.
“We want a third space that does not have cultural or gender surveillance,” she said.
Besides the “speedy implantation of gender-neutral bathrooms campus-wide,” the student group demanded that transgender health services on campus be improved, according to the Amherst Wire.
The students also requested the school hire a professor who is an expert in transmisogyny, a term combines transphobia and misogyny.
Hitting people where they do their business was effective, Kilian said.
“The administration agreed to our progressive benchmarks within two days.” Kilian said proudly. “Hormones are now available at Health Services. Before, you had to drive two hours to get them.”
More than 220 students participated, but there were some disturbing moments as well.
“The results of the election seems to have emboldened more people in their violence,” she said. “Some [protest opponents] made it clear they were not happy. They shouted insults and shook the bathroom stalls.”
UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski told CampusReform.org that the university is committed to expanding the availability of gender-neutral restrooms.
“Currently, there are more than 200 gender-inclusive, single-user restrooms on campus, and during the coming year more than 50 will be added, either by construction or by converting single-user ‘Men’ or ‘Women’ facilities to ‘Restrooms,’” he explained. “All new construction and major renovations on campus will include gender-inclusive restrooms.”
Kilian hopes the success of the “shit in” inspires other trans people to speak out about repression.
“For me, the message of this is that our community can’t let others take our dignity from us,” she said.