Temporarily closure of CSU’s gender-inclusive bathroom affects the university’s LGBTQ+ community

CSU gender-inclusive bathroom located on the fourth floor in Berkman Hall – Photo Credit: Ashley Lubecky

During the fall semester of 2021, Cleveland State’s first and only gender-inclusive bathroom was introduced on campus, located on the fourth floor in Berkman Hall. The bathroom features 14 stalls with doors that reach the floor, creating privacy. 

Cleveland State students identifying as transgender and non-binary were excited and relieved when this gender-inclusive bathroom first opened. 

In a previous statement, Cleveland State student Issac Montgomery shared, “Personally, for me, it eliminates that stigma of like ‘now people are judging me,’ like ‘oh my gosh, they think it’s a woman in the bathroom’ when really you’re just trying to pee.”

“I was really happy that (the bathroom) was there, and I remember going in the first time thinking dang this is nice,” Lee Barden (they/he), a trans-masculine student at CSU stated. “I don’t have to worry about everyone giving me weird looks or anything, it’s just so stress free.” 

Only having one multi-stall gender-neutral bathroom within the university can cause problems. The biggest and most recent issue is it being closed for the first month of the Fall 2022 semester due to plumbing issues with students flushing paper towels down the toilets.

One transgender student at CSU, wanting to remain anonymous, shared that “(The bathroom) being closed for the first month of school made it very difficult. It was demeaning, it hurt me, and I had to plan around it.” 

The student continued on, noting that three of their four in-person classes are on the fourth floor of Berkman Hall, and they’d have to run all the way to the first-floor Student Center to use the bathroom. 

“I use a cane. Extended periods of walking are very difficult for me, I try to avoid going to other buildings unless I have to, it’s painful and difficult and I’m slow’, The student stated. “I’d fight between my physical and mental health. Do I use the women’s bathroom because it’s closest or go to another one and risk pain?”

The incident of paper towels being flushed down the toilet happened in several gendered bathrooms. Still, with various gendered bathrooms throughout the school, students who identify as cisgender could find another bathroom easily. Transgender and non-binary students are left with little to no options when the gender-inclusive bathroom shuts down for any reason.

Barden shared that within the LGBTQ+ Student led discord, he kept seeing messages about the bathroom being closed, and nobody knew at the time why this was.

“I heard it’s been closed so often that I don’t even want to bother going down there,” Barden said. 

Barden shared that instead, they would use the single-gender stall bathroom or they would “suck it up and use the women’s restroom,” even though this would make them uncomfortable.

Barden also stated that they had days on campus that they skipped using the bathroom because he does not pass either way on campus. 

Single-stall family restrooms are often the main or only option for transgender folks trying to relieve their bladders. They are the first choice for companies to install gender-inclusive restrooms. 

Cuyahoga Community College, for instance, offers various gender-inclusive bathrooms on every floor in every building of the school. All of these bathrooms, though, are single-stall restrooms. 

However, “single-stall family restrooms can reinforce the ‘othering’ of trans* folks when it’s the only safe option available for them,” previous Cleveland State LGBTQ+ Student Services Coordinator, Kara Tellish, shared in a statement

Cleveland State Associate Vice President David Kielmeyer shared that if paper towels being flushed down the toilets continues to be an issue, the school will switch to air dryers.

The university did not respond to questions regarding plans to install another multi-stall gender-inclusive bathroom at Cleveland State.