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Gender neutral bathrooms in Cohen Hall, and signs for them in Houston Credit: Christina Prudencio , Christina Prudencio

For transgender students, deciding between male and female designated bathrooms is not always a simple choice.

To avoid these incidents, students and staff have been working to increase the number of gender-neutral bathrooms across campus. Only a handful of single-user bathrooms are visibly labeled “gender-neutral.”

While some of these bathrooms have been gender-neutral for years, they were rarely identified as such, said College senior Victor Galli, the political chair of Lambda Alliance.

“We’re trying to better advertise the restrooms that currently exist and repurpose bathrooms that already existed as gender neutral bathrooms,” he said.

“Knowing where single-use restrooms are allows transgender students to not have to hunt for them in times of need,” Associate Director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center Erin Cross wrote in an email.

A lack of gender-neutral bathrooms across campus can also cause health problems for transgender individuals, she added, since refraining from regularly using the bathroom can lead to discomfort and urinary tract infections.

Signs denoting the location of these single-use bathrooms have become increasingly noticeable around campus through the work of the LGBT Center, Vice Provost for University Life, the Office of the Campus Architect, Lambda Alliance and the Undergraduate Assembly, Cross wrote.

Buildings like Houston Hall already have single-use restrooms that are marked gender-neutral. In addition, there are signs outside the men’s and women’s restrooms that direct users to single-user bathrooms upstairs.

“It’s easy to change a sign, but one of the real challenges is getting new facilities that are being constructed to have single stalls,” Chair of the Lamdba Alliance Corinne Rich said. The College senior stressed that gender-neutral bathrooms were not only for transgender individuals.

New additions to campus like Penn Park and the Music Building near 34th and Locust streets do not have single-use restrooms that can be designated as gender-neutral spaces.

Rich, who claims the lack of gender-neutral bathrooms was an “oversight,” said LGBT advocates may avoid situations like these in the future by vocalizing the need and pushing for a “formalized policy” through the University administration or the UA.

“Eventually, we would like to have at least one — and hopefully more — single-use restroom in every Penn building, including those at new construction and renovation projects,” Cross wrote.

While the initiative for gender-neutral bathrooms has been a work in progress, Galli said Lambda Alliance was hard at work putting forth a plan to provide transgender health benefits for staff and faculty.

“We are on a good track and in a good place with Human Relations at Penn and the Personnel Benefits Committee and we’re excited to see the results,” Galli said, adding that a formal announcement, one way or the other, would occur some time around mid-spring.

“Transgender health benefits for students was proposed three or four years ago and only came to fruition recently,” Rich said.

Galli explained that the message behind transgender advocacy was that Penn is “truly a diverse community of scholars and staff members on campus,” he said.

“Beyond Penn’s walls we can’t control what happens in the world, but on this campus they are part of this family,” Galli said.

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