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Harvard Launches ‘Gender Inclusive’ Bathroom App

February 23, 2021

Harvard University is launching an app that will help students determine where gender-neutral bathrooms are located across campus.

The program is called the Gender Inclusive Restroom Mapping project. According to a flyer obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, the university is seeking “to ensure that all Harvard community members, including those who are transgender, gender nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming, have accurate and inclusive means of locating restrooms at Harvard.” 

“The project will inventory and discreetly communicate, via a web application, the location of gender-inclusive restrooms across Harvard’s Cambridge, Allston, and Boston campuses,” the flyer reads. “Members of the Harvard community will be able to search for and find detailed information about each restroom.”

The university said it created the application to combat discrimination on campus, asserting that gender-nonconforming people experience anxiety over using the bathroom, which the university has deemed a “public health concern.” 

“Discrimination against transgender, gender nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people in public restrooms often leads to experiences of anxiety around restroom use, restroom avoidance, and lack of restroom access,” the university said. “Deemed a public health concern, these issues can lead to various health problems.”

The bathroom mapping system was created in partnership with the Office of the President and Provost, the engineering school, the Title IX office, the Harvard Medical School, the office of “BGLTQ” student life, among others. 

Harvard Medical School announced that one of its top priorities for 2021 was fostering a commitment to “anti-racism.” The top-rated medical school detailed in a virtual town hall how it planned to recruit more minority professors and combat racism. 

According to the Harvard Crimson, the project was launched following a broken gender-neutral bathroom sign in 2016. An unknown student or staff member partially removed a gender-neutral bathroom sign that hung on a restroom next to a university dining hall. The sign originally read, “Gender Neutral, for everyone.” The word “men” was painted on the sign to read, “Gender Neutral, for men.” 

Activist students called the defaced sign “sexist and offensive” to students who identify as transgender. 

A survey of the Harvard 2021 incoming freshman class found that 0.4 percent of students identify as transgender. According to the school’s BGLTQ office website, “gender-inclusive housing” already exists on the campus as well. Freshmen at Harvard are allowed to live in the same dorm as a student whose sex they most identify with, not the same sex that they biologically align with.  

The Biden administration has already signaled that it looks favorably upon transgender initiatives such as the Harvard bathroom app. President Biden signed an executive order calling on schools to allow transgender athletes to participate in sports based on their perceived gender identity. 

“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” the executive order reads. The Department of Justice has signaled that it will enforce this order via Title IX, meaning schools that do not comply risk losing funding. 

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that he believes schools have a “legal responsibility” to include males who identify as transgender in women’s sports. During his Senate confirmation hearing in response to a question on the topic by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Cardona affirmed that he believes it is fair to have biological males who identify as females participate in girls’ sports.

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