Gender-specific spaces on campus create barriers for students

Editor’s Note: *Name has been changed to protect the privacy of individuals based on their gender identity.

Greek Row residence halls are empty as of spring 2021. Pepperdine Housing and Residence Life places students in residence halls based on their gender, not their gender identity. Photo by Ashley Mowreader

Pepperdine has a history of gender-based separation on campus, with a ban on the opposite sex in dorms on campus in Los Angeles. The University first introduced mixed floors in 2012 to reflect the overseas experience, according to earlier graphic reports.

But despite the changes, housing assignments and available restrooms on campus remain challenges for the inclusion of transgender or queer students on campus.

“You really have to put in the effort to create your own space,” said Seaver senior non-binary student Miller. “If I really want to feel affirmed in my gender, when I have lots of cisgender friends who are assertive, I like to seek out the company of other trans people. [and] build this space myself. But there is no physical space for that.


Pepperdine does not offer gender-neutral housing on the Malibu campus—all room and suite assignments, as well as placement in suite-style residence halls like freshman dorms, are gender sensitive.

The sun is shining on Lower Dorm Road in Spring 2021. All freshman accommodation is allocated based on the gender of the student – ​​male or female.  Photo by Ashley Mowreader
The sun is shining on Lower Dorm Road in Spring 2021. All freshman accommodation is allocated based on the gender of the student – ​​male or female. Photo by Ashley Mowreader

Miller lives with women in on-campus housing, which they said was fine, but not representative of their identity.

“It’s just weird knowing men and other non-binary people that I would feel perfectly comfortable living with, but I know I need to find people that the University will read with like women,” Miller said. “And it’s just a time when I’m more aware of how people in authority will see me.”

J. Doe*, a non-binary freshman from Seaver, said they lived with men in a freshman residence and found their situation comfortable, despite some initial fears.

“I was worried that coming to campus, being in a lively community of a bunch of guys and being singled out or having a hard time connecting with people,” Doe said. “[But] I felt pretty welcome, like I felt comfortable putting my pronouns and username on my GroupMe for my dorm.

Housing and Residence Life uses a one-on-one approach to welcoming transgender students, Brittany Skinner, assistant dean of student affairs and director of student activities, wrote in a March 25 email to The Graphic.

“Our goal is to respect the needs of our students by understanding that the needs and wishes vary for each individual,” Skinner wrote. “We start by listening, knowing that we can best serve our transgender and gender non-conforming students by listening to their inquiries about their life circumstances. From these conversations, we make arrangements that, where possible, make them feel supported and comfortable.

Miller said they did not seek accommodations from the University regarding housing placements due to privacy concerns.

“I didn’t seek it out, mainly because I didn’t know how it would work and also because I wasn’t sure if it could come back to my parents,” Miller said. “Or if my parents asked me about my roommates, and I have an unusual situation that might raise questions that I’m not yet ready to answer them.”

If the school welcomes gay students, Miller said the information was not shared with them and did not appear readily available.

“It’s hard to know that these spaces aren’t designed for me,” Miller said. “They are made for others. And you really have to put in the effort to create your own space.

In his statement to the Graphic, Skinner did not provide specific examples of housing the University provides for trans or non-binary students.


For non-binary or gender queer community members, choosing which restroom to use is a daily struggle.

“Bathrooms are something that concerns me more than most people should be,” Miller said.

On the Malibu campus, there is typically at least one set of gendered multi-stall public restrooms on each floor of every public building, Jeff Gin, associate director of planning, operations and construction, wrote in an e March 24 email to the Graphic. .

Miller said they generally use women’s restrooms on campus because they are more female than male, but their preference is for single-use or all-gender restrooms.

“I know of a family bathroom on campus, in Seaside Hall,” Miller said. “Since discovering this family bathroom I have been using it every chance I get every time I’m at Seaside because it seems like such a small thing but it’s a nice d to go to the bathroom and not feel like I’m doing anything.

The Seaside Residence Hall single-use toilet that Miller said he prefers to use. Of the 57 single-use toilets on campus, 28 are located in residence halls. Photo by Sam Torre

The Department of Planning, Operations and Construction provided the Graphic with a document outlining all registered single-use bathrooms, their locations and dimensions.

According to the document, there are 57 single-use toilets on the Malibu campus, 28 of which are located in student housing.

An interactive map of single-use toilets on campus, according to documents from the Department of Planning, Operations and Construction. Infographic by Ashley Mowreader

Each freshman residence hall has single-use restrooms on the first floor, Seaside Residence Hall has single-use restrooms outside of its fitness center — the one Miller uses — and Towers Residence Hall houses the other 12 rooms. bathroom. Only residents of university residences have access to floors with bathrooms.

Of the remaining 29 bathrooms, 17 are in offices such as the Department of Public Security or the Drescher Central Plant.

The largest single-use bathroom on campus is for private use in the Thornton Administration Center on the fourth floor of the President’s Office.

There’s also a lack of single-use restrooms in other event spaces, including the Payson Library, Firestone Fieldhouse, Ralph-Straus Tennis Center, Elkins Auditorium, Weisman Museum, and Smothers Theater.

Classrooms also lack single-use washrooms – RAC, AC, BPC, CAC, Keck Science Center, Music Building, Pendleton Learning Center all lack single-use or family bathrooms . Athletic bathrooms are also gender-specific – the locker rooms, athletic training room, and Heritage Hall bathrooms are all multi-cabin gender-specific restrooms.

“I’ve always been a big fan of single-use or gender-neutral bathrooms, especially on something like a college campus where most of the people who use it go to school here,” Doe said.

Doe said they knew of gender-neutral restrooms near their hometown of Portland, but Miller said they had only seen one gender-neutral restroom in a restaurant in Los Angeles.

“I can understand the worry, especially if it’s something you’re unfamiliar with,” Doe said. “But I have yet to meet anyone who has had this experience, especially in a gender-neutral bathroom.”

Miller said they hope that in the future, Pepperdine and its community will be more accommodating to students in physical spaces.

“It’s not so much about creating new spaces for trans and non-binary people — we’re not trying to create a third gendered space,” Miller said. “It’s about breaking down barriers and creating places that are for everyone. And right now, there are a lot of places that are designed not to be suitable for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be that way.


Follow the graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic

Contact Ashley Mowreader via Twitter (@amowreader) or by email: [email protected]

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