On Tuesday, Ramapo College’s Gender Equality at Ramapo club, also known as GEAR, hosted a talk about gender neutral bathrooms at Ramapo, also known as a national campaign called #illgowithyou. The GEAR e-board facilitated the talk, opening up the discussion to first talk about what the campaign was all about.
The #illgowithyou campaign revolves around a buddy system for transgender people or others who do not necessarily feel comfortable going to a public bathroom alone. This could be due to a number of reasons, but is predominantly due to the fact that transgender people are very often the targets of hate crimes or harassment, especially in gendered spaces such as restrooms. The idea of the system is for an ally of the LGBTQ community to accompany a person to the bathroom if they do not feel comfortable going on their own, for the aforementioned reasons. Allies are given a pin that states "I’ll go with you" and are identified as allies and buddies in that way.
“Feeling comfortable in a public restroom is something that most cisgender people take completely for granted,” Laura French, the club’s president, said explaining the importance of the campaign. She explained that "cisgender" refers to people who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth.
Ramapo’s three gender neutral bathrooms are new to the College as of this semester. French spoke on the idea that there are still problems regarding these bathrooms that need to be solved.
“It doesn’t really solve the problem at Ramapo, because the new bathrooms are all only one stall, so if multiple people want to use the bathroom at the same time, they can’t," French said.
The goal of the program was to teach those in attendance how to be better allies. The audience was broken up into two groups and each group was assigned a facilitator who talked about the proper ways to be a successful and supportive buddy, and how to react in case of active harassment. This is the advice that was given:
When in the bathroom with your buddy, ask them where they would like you to be. Speak only when spoken to, stay calm, and most importantly, have an exit strategy in case harassment should occur. Lastly, should harassment occur, safety is the top priority. If you are physically prevented from leaving the bathroom, yell for help. If it is safe and possible to do, call 911. Stay with your buddy should harassment or assault occur. Ask them if they would like to report the incident, go to the hospital, or call someone they are close to. Respect their decision. However, if your buddy is critically injured or unconscious, or both, seek medical help immediately. After the incident, GEAR reminded the audience, it is also important to seek self care.
The audience’s reception to the event was overwhelmingly positive.
Cheryl Scoch, a senior at Ramapo who was in attendance at the event, had only good things to say about the program.
“I found it to be very informative, I had no idea we even had gender neutral bathrooms on campus. It seems Ramapo is more progressive than I thought it was,” Scoch commented.
“The LGBT community has made a lot of progress in the equal rights movement. I feel as though gender neutral bathrooms are a great step, especially to ensure the safety of the members in the LGBT community,” junior Casey Spano said.