UT Tyler students petition for unisex bathrooms

UT Tyler students petition for unisex bathrooms
Julia Bodiford, president of the Gender Sex and Sexuality Alliance at the University of Texas at Tyler. (Source: KLTV Staff)
Julia Bodiford, president of the Gender Sex and Sexuality Alliance at the University of Texas at Tyler. (Source: KLTV Staff)
House Bill 1748 would criminalize using a bathroom not matching the gender a person was assigned at birth. (Source: KLTV Staff)
House Bill 1748 would criminalize using a bathroom not matching the gender a person was assigned at birth. (Source: KLTV Staff)

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The private matter of public restrooms is making its way through the Texas legislature.

Texas house representative, Debbie Riddle, filed House Bill 1748 in February that would penalize a person for using a bathroom that does not match their gender.

The issue has sparked major reaction from the transgender community, as the bill requires an individual to choose a restroom that matches their sex assigned at birth, but disregards a person's gender identity, which may differ.

The bill applies to public toilet facilities and would make misuse a Class A misdemeanor.

Gender neutral restrooms have been offered as a solution to a choice that can be stressful for a transgendered person, said Julia Bodiford, president of the Gender Sex and Sexuality Alliance (GSSA) organization at University of Texas at Tyler.

"Because we have this idea of male and female bathrooms, it's very limiting to people who are gender non-conforming to even walk inside." said Bodiford. "There's always a questions of whether people will be shocked or whether or not someone will be aggressive with them."

Bodiford, on behalf of GSSA, filed a petition bearing approximately 150 signatures with the UT Tyler administration in January requesting that the school designate gender neutral restrooms.

"I felt that it would be really important and really affirming for trans individuals to have an inclusive neutral space to use the restroom," Bodiford said.

Regarding HB 1748 that would limit individuals to using facilities based on their X or Y chromosomes, Bodiford said she thinks the bill is unrealistic.

"I think that would be very hard to enforce, because how would you enforce it aside from asking someone to literally show you their sex assigned at birth," said Bodiford.

GSSA's proposal to UT Tyler applies only to single-stall facilities and does not request that the university designate multi-stall bathrooms as gender neutral.

Jesse Acosta, vice president for administration and chief business officer at UT Tyler, submitted a written statement regarding the petition for neutral restrooms:

"We currently have family restrooms on campus, and we are looking into the possibility of including additional family facilities."

UT Tyler has a current enrollment of 8,036 students.

Bodiford said that family-use bathrooms are more inclusive for those who are unsure of whether to enter the male only or female only restroom, but the creation of gender neutral bathrooms would send a positive message.

"I would like to see more gender neutral bathrooms just to show a presence of this is a space to those who are gender non-conforming," said Bodiford. "But I realize that is going to take some time for people to be comfortable with that."

The Tyler Transgender Group said that about 30 students would be directly affected if UT Tyler designated gender neutral restrooms.

According to Bodiford, university administration has communicated with her about the petition, but she has not received a definitive response on the issue of gender neutral restrooms.

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