Library’s gender-neutral bathroom plans stalled

Allison Mueller

After phase three of construction in Kryzsko Commons was complete in the summer of 2014, five gender-neutral bathrooms were open to the public. Darrell W. Krueger Library is now making plans to install its own gender-neutral restrooms, with an anticipated finish date of the end of the 2017 academic year. (Photo by Nicole Girgen)
After phase three of construction in Kryzsko Commons was complete in the summer of 2014, five gender-neutral bathrooms were open to the public. Darrell W. Krueger Library is now making plans to install its own gender-neutral restrooms, with an anticipated finish date of the end of the 2017 academic year. (Photo by Nicole Girgen)

Colin Kohrs / Winonan

The Darrel W. Krueger library on Winona State University’s campus may be adding a gender-neutral restroom soon.

Library facilities staff discussed the idea during the fall 2016 semester, Winona State librarian and coordinator of the library working spaces Allison Quam said, but plans have hit a wall.

“They were going to do it over winter break, and that did not happen,” Quam said. “We do not know when it will happen. It’s something we’re consistently reminding [facilities] of, and it’s on our radar over here.”

Part of the delay is due to the recent departures of two facilities staff members—Michael Pieper, Winona State’s former assistant vice president for facilities management and James Kelley, Winona State’s former director of planning and construction—coinciding with recent difficulties in the pedestrian tunnel construction.

Facilities will likely create the restroom out of a pre-existing single-stall restroom in the staff lounge 121, located on the first floor next to the women’s restroom.

“That is the only bathroom we’ve identified that would work,” Quam said. “What we’re waiting to find out is when is it going to happen, what is it going to look like.”

Nichole Moravec, co-president of Full Spectrum at Winona State, explained why gender-neutral restrooms are beneficial for trans and non-binary individuals.

“Gender-neutral bathrooms are important to keep transpeople safe because people are not nice,” Moravec said.

According to Moravec, who is non-binary—identifying with neither of the binary genders, male or female—individuals who identify as transgender, non-binary people and gender nonconforming individuals risk harassment in traditionally gendered bathrooms.

“Basically people are concerned about transpeople using bathrooms,” Moravec said. “And they shouldn’t be. Just let people pee wherever they want, and there won’t be a problem.”

Minnesota Bill HF41, proposed on Jan. 13, prohibits individuals from using restrooms in public schools that do not coincide with their sex characteristics “to protect and provide for the privacy and safety of all students enrolled in public schools,” identifying individuals by sex rather than gender identities.

While the proposed bill would only impact primary and secondary schools, many similar laws are currently being debated from state to state, and in light of both legal and social tension, single-stall gender-neutral restrooms help ease potential conflicts.

“I personally get super uncomfortable when I have to use a women’s bathroom,” Moravec said. “Especially when I’m out to professors and they know that I’m non-binary and seeing them in the women’s bathroom is just awkward.”

Moravec, a business student, noted while Winona State facilities has added gender-neutral restrooms in recent projects, there is still a slight inconvenience in their presence.

“There’s finally one in Somsen, but it is on the first floor which kind of sucks because all my classes are on third floor,” Moravec said. “So I have to book it down to first floor when I have to go to the bathroom and book it back up, but that’s better than before when the closest one was in Kryzsko.”

Kryzsko Commons has five gender-neutral bathrooms, which is the most of any building on campus.

The first restroom facilities added, according to student union/activities director for Winona State Joe Reed was the Smaug restroom, which was originally a custodial closet.

In the summer of 2014, when phase three of Kryzsko was built, the rest were added. This was a decision of which, Reed explained, was a “no-brainer.”

“The original plans was going to be men’s and women’s,” Reed said. “So we just made it gender neutral, both upstairs and downstairs.”

In addition to helping individuals feel safe, gender-neutral restrooms help in multi-person situations such as parents with children, individuals with caretakers and, as Reed explained, people who prefer privacy.

“People like going to a bathroom they’ve got to themselves,” Reed said. “Whether the gender thing comes into play—I’m sure it does for some—but for most people it’s more convenient. People have their own idiosyncrasies about bathrooms.”

Reed emphasized that Kryzsko’s status as a student-gathering place made the need for the accommodations more apparent.

While the plans for the library restroom are still somewhat up in the air, given that the library is another common gathering place for students, Quam said she is hopeful students will see a gender-neutral restroom before the end of the academic year.

Colin Kohrs / Winonan