Students challenged to use gender-neutral bathrooms

by Hayley O’Brien

Harper Lee once wrote, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” This week, senior Cultural Diversity Advocate Sarah Streyder is taking a page from Lee’s book and challenging the Whitworth community to live in the bladder of someone who feels uncomfortable using a gendered restroom.

The bathroom challenge is an event urging students to only use gender neutral bathrooms Monday, April 20 through Sunday, April 26 when urinating or defecating.

“The primary purpose is to encourage students to cultivate genuine empathy for a demographic here on campus.”

There are plenty of students who do not feel comfortable using gendered bathrooms on campus, Streyder said.

“If they are focusing on holding their bladder in class because they don’t have that option [to use a restroom they are comfortable in], they aren’t going to be filling their greatest potential nor are they going to feel welcome in our buildings,” Streyder said.

Rainier Emerick | Graphic Artist

Currently, 13 out of 37 of the buildings on campus have at least one gender-neutral bathroom Streyder said.

Senior Ashton Skinner and Dr. Richard Mandeville, vice president for student life, are planning to increase the percent of single stall, locking, gender neutral restrooms on campus to 51 percent next fall and the bathroom challenge is meant to start creating awareness of these changes, Streyder said.

The challenge will allow participants to realize the scarcity of gender-neutral bathrooms and provoke students to find out where gender-neutral bathrooms will be added on campus next year, Streyder said.

For students who want to participate in the challenge there are no sign up lists or incentives. The challenge is meant to be voluntary and personal, Streyder said.

Including prizes or incentives for the challenge would make the experience into a game and cheapen the experiences had by students who deal with these issues every day, Streyder said.

“This is meant to be something for the earnest of heart,” she said. “Not for the people who are trying to be popular.”

Contact Hayley O’Brien at

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