In the words of the late poet and activist Audre Lorde, who wrote so clearly and fiercely about both the barriers that difference creates and the possibility of transcending those differences: ‘I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose face it wears.’

The moments when I have gotten close to touching that terror are both frightening and exhilarating. They wash me clean and, at the same time, leave permanent scars. I sometimes rush toward those moments and other times do not have the strength to get too close. I am afraid of failing, of being seen and seen-through. I remain terrified, and yet I continue to seek out that terror as often as I can bear it, for one simple reason: Those are the moments in my life when I come closest to tasting real freedom.

-Robert Jensen, The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism, and White Privilege

Doing Things and Thinking about Things. Also, Toilet Training.

Unfortunately, this blog has mostly been sporadic thought pieces that I write when I have the urge to write about things bouncing around my head and also have time to do so. (Also unfortunately, this happens far less often than I would care for it to.) Hopefully, this might be changing a little bit.

I’m going to continue writing these thought pieces because I like doing so. But, I have some exciting things going on that I hope to be writing about more often.

Currently, I am working in conjunction with some other students to spearhead a campaign for gender-neutral facilities in the Champaign-Urbana community and on campus. In particular, we are working on petitioning local businesses to modify their gendered, single-person restrooms to gender-neutral facilities; converting gendered restrooms on campus to gender-neutral; and pushing administration to make gender-neutral restrooms and housing a priority.

Remember back this summer when I was being all angst-y about doing things and figuring things out? At that time, I had some conversations with friends noticing in particular that many coffee shops in our area bill themselves as “LGBT-friendly,” and contain two gendered, single-person-usage restrooms. I thought, “You know, these places would actually be more queer-friendly if they just slapped a ‘restroom’ sign over the ‘men’ and ‘women’ signs.” Originally, it was just going to be a petition for some local coffee shops, but it’s grown. A lot. We’re excited!

As we do this, we’re hoping to keep a lot of things in mind. We don’t want to walk over the work that’s been done to increase the number of accessible restrooms on campus, so we’re trying to work with some people on universal design. At this point, we’re mostly making connections, doing research, and establishing plans.

So, I hope to keep track of some of the things that are going on and some of the background for what we’re doing by writing here. To start with, this is the most recently published map of gender-neutral restrooms on campus. According to the map, at least 41 buildings on campus have at least one gender-neutral restroom. (I am aware of at least one more–the Lincoln Avenue Residence Hall has an accessible restroom in its lobby that is also gender-neutral.) Ultimately, our end goal: For the whole map to be orange.