Restrooms Go Gender Neutral at Wheaton College in Norton | NECN
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Restrooms Go Gender Neutral at Wheaton College in Norton

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    (Published Monday, March 6, 2017)

    A Massachusetts college is making its campus restrooms gender neutral, a subject that has become sensitive nationwide.

    "Gender neutral restroom" signs may not be as recognizable as your traditional men's and women's restroom signs, but students at Wheaton College in Norton say they welcome the change.

    "I really don't think it's a problem. The dorms are co-ed bathrooms anyways, so bathrooms are really just a bathroom here," student Kyle Kilburn said.

    "We all do the same thing when we're in the bathroom, it doesn't make that much sense to distinguish between different genders," student Saba Mundlay said.

    The college began the transition as a staff initiative long before the topic became politicized nationwide.

    "It's just the right thing to do. It shouldn't be seen as a disruptive thing, even though, given the political discourse today, it might be seen as that," said student Francisco Tamargo.

    As the Trump administration walks back Obama administration protections for transgender students in public schools that let them use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, students at this private institution see their school community as a safe space for students who otherwise might be stressed out over something as simple as going to the bathroom.

    "I have a friend who identifies non-binary, meaning neither male nor female, and they always go through an issue of like, 'What bathroom do I use, I don't feel comfortable,'" said student Sara Cohen. "It doesn't hurt anybody, it's not going to cost the school any extra, so what's the issue?"

    Wheaton College released a statement Monday regarding the move:

    "The introduction of all-gender bathrooms in academic and administrative buildings is being undertaken to ensure that all members of the Wheaton College community—as well as guests—feel welcome, safe and secure on our campus. The current debate about public accommodations for transgender individuals will not impact this project, which began last year. As a private institution, Wheaton is acting in accordance with the college's values as a diverse and inclusive community, and its commitment to serving all students and welcoming all people, regardless of their gender identity."

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