Berkman Hall renovations include new inclusive multi-stall restroom.
A version of this story was originally published in The Buckeye Flame.
Cleveland State University students on-campus for the first time will get to enjoy some improvements to the university, strategically completed while a significant portion of students were home for online learning. Berkman Hall, one of the University’s central buildings, has the most noticeable changes.
On the building’s south end is a new lounge space, complete with new furniture, workspaces, and a view of Trinity Cathedral. Perhaps most notable, however, is CSU’s first multi-stall inclusive restroom.
The restroom contains 14 stalls available for anyone to use, making it the first of its kind at the university, and one of the first at an Ohio public university. It is a cause for celebration for some, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community.
“Having equal access to public bathrooms is a human rights issue for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals,” says Kara Tellaisha, Coordinator of LGBTQ+ Student Services at Cleveland State University. The restroom will “create an equitable, safe and inclusive atmosphere for everyone, including the LGBTQ+ community,” according to CSU’s press release.
The Cauldron spoke with Isaac Montgomery, a transgender student, to better understand the Isaac Montgomery, a transgender student studying Film & Media Arts, shared his perspective on the significance of the project. His first experience using a men’s restroom shortly after coming out was an anxious one.
“It felt like I was on pins and needles… I was super scared that people would find it weird, that they would hear me and just clock me instantly… I will never forget that feeling,” Montgomery shared.
“To have a [multi-stall] inclusive bathroom distorts those boundaries,” he continued. The openness the space provides allows students who don’t feel safe, or whose identities don’t align with the gender binary, an affirming place to use the restroom.
“Personally, for me, it eliminates that stigma of like ‘now people are judging me’, like ‘oh my gosh, they think like it’s a woman in the bathroom’ when really you’re just trying to pee.”
While single stall restrooms are the predominant choice for inclusive restrooms, they are not always the best choice, as they reinforce the “othering” of transgender people, according to Tellaisha. While gendered restrooms may cause fear of “being clocked,” single stalls put transgender and gender nonconforming people into a third category rather than being inclusive.
To Montgomery, the new restroom sends an obvious message: “We don’t judge, we don’t care, we invite you with open arms.It’s like, man, the trans community actually got something for once!”
The restroom also contains a private lactation room, bringing the campus total to four. These spaces support employees and students who are nursing, and are accessible only to those with the door code, ensuring a safe and private space. More information can be found on the Mareyjoyce Green Women’s Center website.
The past few years have been an exciting time for LGBTQ+ students at CSU. In February, CSU earned a Campus Pride Index score of 4 out of 5 stars, a ranking that places it in the top 10 schools in Ohio for LGBTQ+ friendliness. The university also hosted actress Laverne Cox for a Q&A session, and just this month announced the first recipient of the new LGBTQ+ Student Services scholarship, which aims to ease the financial burden on one LGBTQ+ student each year.
Their newly reopened LGBTQ+ Center on campus- Berkman Hall room 211- provides a community space and access to resources for students, faculty, and staff. A full list of inclusive restrooms and more information on LGBTQ+ Student Services can be found on their website.
The Buckeye Flame is a platform dedicated to amplifying the voices of LGBTQ+ Ohioans to support community and civic empowerment through the creation of engaging content that chronicles their triumphs, struggles, and lived experiences.