A college will take the bold step of removing the gender markers on all of its bathrooms.
The privately-funded Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, in New York’s East Village, is home to nearly a thousand students.
The college decided to make a change amid a battle over transgender rights across the US, with a number of Republican-backed ‘bathroom bills’ aiming to ban trans people from using their preferred toilet – many of which are also contain provisions to block LGBT rights protections.
Hardline anti-gay groups have been accused of exploiting the issue, with one vile ad even depicting a man raping a little girl in a toilet. Rape is a crime in all 50 states.
However, New York has pushed back against the tide – with Mayor Bill de Blasio issuing an order aiming to protect trans people’s rights to use whichever bathroom they prefer.
Cooper Union has gone even further in a drive to protect the rights of trans students – opting to remove the ‘male’ and ‘female’ signs in favour of ‘restroom with urinal and stalls’ and ‘restroom with only stalls’.
According to the Guardian, the President of Cooper Union Bill Mea explained: “When people see someone who they think doesn’t belong there, it can create stress for everyone. So we thought, let’s just take that away. Visitors are figuring it out pretty quickly, too.”
“From a practical standpoint, very little will actually change in our day-to-day use of restrooms.
“I cannot change the outside world and how it treats transgender and gender non-conforming people… but I can change the Cooper Union environment to help everyone feel safe when they are inside our buildings.”
He added: “Cooper Union has always been on the forward edge of social justice issues. From the start, in 1859, we admitted women, African Americans. It has always been an institution that promoted equality amongst people.”
Actress Sally Field is among those who have weighed in to the bathroom ‘debate’ as Republicans seek to exploit the issue to attack LGBT rights.
She told reporters of claims that bathroom bills will protect people: “It is a lie, it’s a lie, it’s a lie, it’s a lie, and that is all there is to it”.