Students using the seventh-floor bathrooms at the University of Southern Maine’s Glickman Family Library this week were in for a surprise when the standard symbols for men and women on the doors were covered with a sign announcing the facilities were now “designated as gender neutral.”
With university approval, organizers for the 4th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, held Friday, erased all distinctions for restrooms at the Glickman meeting site, according to Mike Hein of the Christian Civic League of Maine.
“The USM library bathrooms are designed to accommodate several people simultaneously, and they have no exterior door locks,” he said. “Men and women were seen entering and leaving the bathrooms freely, often together as groups, throughout the transgender event.”
The sign on the doors read:
Gender Neutral Restroom
Friday, November 16, 2007 5:30-8:00 p.m.
To ensure that there are safe and accessible bathrooms available for all participants of the 4th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance event, these restrooms have been designated as gender neutral.
The University of Southern Maine strives to create and sustain a campus environment that supports and values all members of our community, including visitors. One aspect of creating a comfortable environment is providing safe, accessible and convenient restroom facilities. Many people may experience difficulty and inconvenience when required to use gender-specific restrooms, and the same holds true for others with attendants/caregivers of a different gender. Additionally, transgender individuals and those whose gender may not conform with societal stereotypes associated with their birth sex may be subject to harassment or violence when using male- or female-specific restrooms.
For these reasons, these bathrooms will temporarily be gender neutral. All other bathrooms in the Glickman Family Library will remain sex-segregated.”
Gender-specific restrooms located on all lower levels – library floors 1 through 6.
The event was sponsored by USM Center for Sexualities and Gender Diversity, USM Residence Life and Student Involvement, LGBT Collection of the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity and Maine Speakout.
Following a film viewing and workshop in the afternoon, a two-hour social event and caucus session was offered where participants were encouraged to “attend the caucus which most closely aligns with how you identify,” Hein said.
Caucuses included the Female-to-Male Spectrum, Male-to-Female Spectrum, the GenderQueer caucus, and the Friends, Family and Allies caucus.
The caucuses were followed by a ceremonial reading of names of individuals organizers said had been victims of anti-transgender and gender-based violence.
Keynote speaker Alex Roan, a biological female from the Maine Transgender Network criticized U.S. society for its “rigid, binary system of gender identity.”
Rev. Jennifer Paty
Rev. Jennifer Paty, a lesbian minister from the Northern Lights Metropolitan Community Church in Augusta closed the event, saying “many in our community have been harmed by religion” and by “hatred and fear, fueled by antiquated religious beliefs.”
Paty quoted from the Bible’s Isaiah and said Jesus, the Quran, Buddhists and pagan witchraft all speak to those involved in the “struggle for gender liberation.”
She blessed those in attendance and prayed the event would “open the hearts of those who judge.”
Despite the university’s expressed concerns about violence against transgender people using male- or female-only restrooms, all facilities were returned their pre-event gender-specific status when the evening closed.