By: Megan Mac Gregor
Nesbitt Library Penn State Wilkes-Barre
For the majority of the population, using a public restroom is a simple and mundane process. You locate, you enter, you use, you continue with your day.
But for 1.4 million adults this is not the case. Using a public restroom, at the very least, can be a heart pounding, slightly degrading but necessary choice. In the worst cases, 12% of the 1.4 million people who are transgender, gender variant, or just don’t look male or female enough, may experience verbal harassment, physical violence, or sexual assault. For this population, the fear of what might happen causes over half of them to choose not use public restrooms at all, which often leads to not eating or drinking while out in public.
Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s Nesbitt Library, as part of a university-wide initiative, chose to update its two gender-specific restrooms (women and men) to two gender-neutral restrooms. These are the first gender-neutral restrooms on the Wilkes-Barre campus, joined by the PSW-B Health Services Office’s single stall restroom, which is located in the Athletics and Recreation Building (ARB).
Megan MacGregor, acting head librarian of Nesbitt Library, felt it was very appropriate for the library to have gender-neutral restrooms. “Libraries have a long history of promoting equality and neutrality. We have always strived to provide access to information regardless of a person’s background, economic status, etc. so why not provide equal access to restrooms?” said MacGregor. The new gender-neutral restrooms provide a comfortable and safe option for all members of the Penn State Wilkes-Barre community.
In 2016, Penn State University Park campus re-designated 57 gender-specific, single stall restrooms to gender-neutral restrooms. Megan Mac Gregor and Jackie Warnick-Piatt, PSW-B Student Activities Coordinator, co-chairs of the campuses Gender and Sexuality Alliance, with the help of Wanda Ochei, Director of Student Services and Engagement, Sarah Luvender-Newman, Personal Counselor, and Gary Beisel, Director of Business Services, collaborated to upgrade the two bathrooms in the Nesbitt Library.