Frequently Asked Questions – gender inclusive restroom facilities policy

August 28, 2019

FAQ for the campus community

What exactly does the UW–Madison Gender Inclusive Restroom Facilities (GIRF) Policy mean in practice?

The aim of the policy is to enable transgender and gender nonconforming people on campus to use restrooms without harassment. It also supports families with young children and people who employ personal care assistants. The policy provides guidelines for new and renovated buildings to include single-occupancy locking restrooms, as well as encourages people to use any restrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities in which they feel safest and most comfortable.

How do locker rooms, shower rooms, and changing facilities fit in?

These facilities are included in the inclusive facilities policy- people can use any facility in which they feel safest and most comfortable. Recreation and Wellbeing is working on individual-use locker rooms for anyone who is not comfortable sharing. Contact the Natatorium for instructions on accessing the pool at the Natatorium without having to choose or use a gendered locker room.

How does this policy work regarding University Housing residence halls?

The restrooms, locker rooms, showers, and changing facilities in residence halls are included under this policy. While there may not be alternative or single-occupancy shower spaces convenient for residents, existing shower facilities in residence halls do follow best practices by having individual showers and curtains for changing and showering spaces.

The University Housing Student/Community Expectations aligns with this policy in stating: “Individuals, both residents and guests, should use bathrooms that correspond to their sex or gender identity, depending on which option they feel is safer, or utilize bathrooms that are designated gender neutral/gender-inclusive.”

We are pleased that renovated and new residence halls will have gender-inclusive facilities as outlined in the policy.

If I have been discriminated against in a gendered facility because of my gender identity or expression, how can I report the incident?

  • Anyone – student, faculty, or staff – can fill out a Bias Report at http://go.wisc.edu/reporthateandbias. A friend, the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center, or the Multicultural Student Center staff can also assist you in filling out a report.
  • If you are a student, you are encouraged to contact the Dean of Students Office at 608-263-5700 or if you feel safe and supported, the UW–Madison Police Department (UWPD) at 608-264-2677.
  • If you are a faculty or staff member, you are encouraged to contact your supervisor, the Office for Equity and Diversity (OED) at 608-263-2378, or the UW–Madison Police Department (UWPD) at 608-264-2677.

Are gender-inclusive restrooms only for trans and gender nonconforming people? 

No. Gender-inclusive restrooms are open to and benefit all campus community members. These individuals include, but are not limited to: a male parent with a young female child and vice-versa, people with disabilities, people who are temporarily injured, anyone who requires a personal care assistant of a gender different than their own, and anyone who feels more comfortable in a private restroom.

What restrooms should nonbinary people use? 

Nonbinary individuals should use the restrooms in which they feel safest and most comfortable. This may include gender-inclusive restrooms or men’s and women’s multi-stall restrooms.

How do I know where the gender-inclusive restrooms are? 

A map of gender-inclusive restrooms is available on the UW–Madison Campus Map. A text-based list of gender-inclusive restrooms with building names, room numbers, and other details is also available by clicking on “Show List” in the corner of the embedded map on the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center’s website.

How many gender-inclusive restrooms are there on campus?

A crowd-sourced list published by the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center includes nearly 120 single-occupancy restrooms in over 60 campus buildings. These facilities are variously signed as restroom, toilet, unisex restroom, dressing room, all-gender restroom, unisex, gender neutral restroom, and commuter shower. Roughly half of these restrooms are ADA accessible. Facilities Planning & Management (FP&M) continues to implement standardized signage.

In the summer of 2019, Facilities Planning and Management completed the process of conducting code reviews for approximately 50 buildings with existing single‐occupancy restrooms. This information assisted in updating the campus map. We could still use your help updating the map! Check it out and if there are errors or additions please let us know at lgbt@studentlife.wisc.edu.

What signage is appropriate for a gender-inclusive restroom?

You may see a variety of signage across campus, including “Restroom,” “Unisex,” “All Gender Restroom,” “Family Restroom,” and a graphic of a man and a woman symbol. Any of these indicate a single-stall locking restroom for anyone’s use.

The UW–Madison task force recommended official signage that can be ordered through FP&M and features the word “Restroom” with a graphic of a toilet and an accessibility symbol if appropriate. This signage indicates what is in the restroom, not who is allowed to use it. Infant changing facilities are also noted, if available.

My building doesn’t have a gender-inclusive restroom, what can I do?

It is recommended that you follow the current process: department chairs need to submit a request for a space study through the facility manager. That request prompts FP&M to engage in a process that will determine whether your building is up to code such that an existing single-occupancy restroom can be designated gender-inclusive or if a new restroom needs to be constructed. https://physicalplant.wisc.edu/customer-service/

If you are not a department chair: if you have access to one, you can work with them, or contact the Committee for GLBTQ People in the University: https://go.wisc.edu/glbtq.

What do I do if I have a reasonable basis to believe that someone is not using the facility most consistent with their gender identity/expression? 

Do not ask anyone to describe their gender, provide ID, or leave a restroom because their gender appears to you not to correspond to the way the restroom is labeled. UW–Madison supports individuals using the restroom in which they feel safe and most comfortable.

If you are uncomfortable sharing a multi-stall restroom with gender nonconforming individuals, please utilize a gender inclusive restroom – a single-occupancy locking restroom. A crowd-sourced map of these facilities may be found at the UW Campus Map.

What do I do if I have a reasonable basis to believe that someone is using a facility for an improper or unlawful activity? 

As with any improper or unlawful activity anywhere on campus, you may choose to report the incident. Remember that discomfort with another’s gender presentation does not constitute improper or unlawful activity on their part.

  • If you are a student and the incident is in a residence hall, you may report the incident to a house fellow or RLC.
  • If you are a student and the incident is in a building other than a residence hall, you may report the incident by contacting the Dean of Students Office: https://doso.students.wisc.edu/contact-us/.
  • If you are a maintainer, custodian, or tradesperson, you may report the incident to your supervisor.
  • If you are other staff and faculty, you may report the incident to your facility manager.

Where can I go to learn more?

There are a variety of useful resources we can recommend on inclusive restrooms. Start with the below and let the GSCC know if we can assist you further!

FAQ for implementers

What if a patron (student, staff, faculty, or community member) comes to me with a complaint?

  • If their complaint is regarding another patron’s perceived gender:
    • You can refer them to the policy and let them know the University supports anyone using a facility in which they feel safest and most comfortable.
    • If the patron is uncomfortable sharing the restroom with the patron in question, please direct the patron to the gender-inclusive restroom map to help them locate a nearby single-occupancy locking restroom.
    • If they would like to escalate their complaint, they may call the Chancellor Input Line, (608) 890-0466.
  • If their complaint concerns behavior that is illegal (stalking, filming, harassment, etc.), they may call UWPD, as with any improper or unlawful activity anywhere on campus. Remember that discomfort with another’s gender presentation does not constitute improper or unlawful activity on their part.
  • If their complaint is that they have been discriminated against because of their gender identity or expression, they may use the following reporting options:
    • Anyone – student, faculty, or staff – can fill out a Bias Report at http://go.wisc.edu/reporthateandbias. A friend, the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center, or the Multicultural Student Center staff can also assist them in filling out a report.
    • If they are a student, they are encouraged to contact the Dean of Students Office at 608-263-5700.
    • If they are a faculty or staff member, they are encouraged to contact their supervisor, the Office for Equity and Diversity (OED) at 608-263-2378.

What if the patron has further questions about the policy?

  • You may direct them to the online policy for their review.
  • You may direct them to the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center at wisc.edu.
  • Questions about UWPD’s policy and/or response can be directed to the UWPD Pride Team at wisc.edu/about-uwpd/uwpd-pride-team/.