Students have organized a “sh*t in” at the University of Massachusetts Amherst this week, camping out in the toilet stalls of the administration building to protest the lack of gender-neutral bathrooms and other transgender resources on campus.
Gender Liberation UMass, the student group behind the event, issued three demands to administrators: quick implementation of more gender-neutral bathrooms, the establishment of a university transgender health services, and the hiring of a professor “who is an expert in the study of critical transmisogyny from an intersectional perspective.”
The protest began at 9 a.m. Monday, with more than 135 students participating. It will continue as long as it takes for administration to yield, one organizer said. Demonstrators have decided to leave just one stall and one urinal in each bathroom open, to the frustration of a “few people [who] complained and banged on stall doors throughout the day,” the Amherst Wire reported.
A sign-up sheet allowed students to specify which bathroom they’d prefer to occupy and whether they prefer sitting alone or with other protestors. It also asks if they’d like to serve as a marshal, listing possible answers as “Yes,” “No,” “Maybe,” and “I don’t know I feel very small.”
A university spokesman said in an emailed statement that UMass Amherst already has more than 200 single-stall, gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. The university is currently building an additional 50, and all new construction and major renovations will also offer gender-inclusive bathrooms, he said.
Ann Schilling, one of the event’s organizers, says UMass Amherst’s 200 existing gender-neutral bathrooms “are definitely NOT enough,” adding that in some cases transgender students have to go to another building or walk down several flights of stairs to encounter one. Schilling said new construction wasn’t necessary and that changes could be “as simple as changing the signs on the doors.”
“We should not have to be coercively gendered when navigating public spaces,” Schilling told Heat Street in a Facebook message. “That is a real safety issue for trans students and creates a lot of fear.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.