Yale's gender neutral bathrooms part of changing climate
NEW HAVEN, CONN. >> Visitors at Yale University's 315th commencement will notice something new on campus this year — gender-neutral bathrooms in 23 buildings.
The school is promoting them on its website for Monday's commencement, complete with a link to a map showing where they can be found.
It is one of several changes made in the past school year designed to make the university friendlier to transgender students, staff and visitors, school officials said.
Yale also has decided to change a long-standing rule and will allow transgender graduates to have on their diploma the name they use, rather than the name on their birth certificates.
"Yale aims to be a leader on this front," said Tamar Gendler, dean of Yale's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "Part of what is important about the all-gender bathroom project and about putting it at the top of our commencement site, is this is about public signaling."
Yale's Equal Opportunity Statement, which covers all students and employees, has since 2006 prohibited discrimination based upon gender identity or expression in admission, education and employment.
But Isaac Amend, a rising senior who is transitioning to male, said he and other members of the transgender community noticed a big difference at Yale after Caitlyn Jenner's transition brought transgender issues into the national spotlight.
"I'm pretty sure that if you take any year in Yale history and measure the amount of change that happened with regards to trans rights, this has been the most monumental year, by a lot," Amend said.
Professors are now using preferred pronouns when addressing students, and the school is allowing transgender students to change their names on their school identification card and the school's web portal at no charge, he said.
Gender reassignment surgery, hormone suppression therapy and medical procedures are now covered under the student health plan, although Amend said many doctors at the school are not supportive.
"Yale's programs policies and practices are very much what LGBT inclusion looks like for students on a campus," said Rebby Kern, programs manager at Campus Pride, a nonprofit that tracks LGBT rights on campuses nationwide.
Yale is among a growing number of schools changing policies regarding transgender rights. The University of Vermont last year also began officially addressing transgender students using the name and gender pronoun of their choice. Smith College, an all-women's school in Massachusetts, made headlines last year when it began admitting students who were born male but identify as female.
Yale rival Harvard allows housing with the gender with which a student identifies for sophomores, juniors and seniors and allows students to use the bathrooms with which they feel most comfortable. But it does not allow nonlegal names to appear on official documents.
Yale's all-gender bathrooms are the product of the work of Yale's office of LGBTQ Resources, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Most are single stall restrooms that were once labeled either as either a men's or a women's room.
They now include signs that say "All Gender Restroom" with the traditional man and woman figures next to a figure wearing pants on one leg and a dress on the other.
Amend said he was excited to find out that the all-gender bathrooms are being promoted at commencement, when many old-guard alumni will learn of them for the first time.
"That's music to my ears," he said. "And what's the greatest harm that can be done? An old white guy makes a snide remark? Who cares?"