DENTON (CBSDFW.COM) – The University of North Texas is taking a step toward equality and making life easier for transgender students on campus at the same time.
Several public restrooms on the UNT campus will now be gender-neutral. There are already a number of the restrooms in residence dorms, but now a plan is in place to expand them into common areas.
When asked why the changes were happening, university administrators said they are trying to reflect on and meet the needs of their students.
A.J. Aguinaga is a senior at UNT and identifies as a transsexual male. The LGBT activist says identifying with another gender also means preparing for frequent harassment. “It’s a lot of stares or a lot of inappropriate questions. There are a lot of micro-aggressions that are happening.”
Aguinaga says the harassment happens almost every time when using a public restroom and it is there when real fear kicks in. “Am I going to have a violent act committed against me? It’s a lot of anxiety,” Aguinaga said, before wondering aloud, “Will someone shoot me out of the restroom?”
To minimize those concerns and be inclusive of transgender students like A.J. the university is spending more than $100,000 to add about a dozen more gender-neutral restrooms in public campus areas.
The move comes a year after the non-discrimination policy at UNT was changed to afford protection to those who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender.
Student Services Coordinator Kathleen Hobson said, “UNT is making a very obvious statement that they want to be open and inclusive to all community members on campus, especially the LGBT community.”
The plan has garnered a lot of attention on campus, and now those outside the LGBT community have begun to share their thoughts about the project.
UNT student Cyrus Bahrami said, “I think it’s a good idea. I’m all for LGBT rights.”
Shauna Brookins thinks the changes may be a little difficult. “I don’t know that it will go over well with the student population. It’s a little confusing.”
For Aguinaga the move is a simple gesture that provides comfort. “They don’t know what it’s like to not even have a place to use the restroom, or be scared to use the restroom.”
Transgender students at UNT say the next step would be to have their preferred names printed in enrollment documents and on their ID cards.
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