Open Letter from Rivera House

Submitted by Students of the Rivera House

As members of Rivera House, the LGBTQIA+ (gender-inclusive) anti-racist feminist living-learning community, we have been deeply affected by the recurring offenses in the Faculty Office Building regarding the discriminatory signs posted on the gender-neutral bathrooms. 

These bathrooms are there for everyone to use, regardless of their gender identity. Having a bathroom to use is a human right, not a privilege for only those who identify within the gender binary. People should not have to sacrifice their identity or be in fear of going to the bathroom.

The point of a gender-neutral bathroom is to eliminate exclusion, to promote inclusion and provide safety to marginalized individuals. The current policy is to put gender-neutral bathrooms within all new buildings on campus, and as members of the queer and trans community we seriously do appreciate these efforts to keep us safe. Although, seeing signs that purposefully target the trans community, and that perpetuate the notion that transphobia is acceptable within our campus community, discourages tolerance.

“Gender neutral” does not mean “no cisgender people;” it means that men, women, trans and nonbinary people can all use the same bathroom.

These bathrooms are often one-person bathrooms with locks on the doors, for safety reasons. However, if someone is going out of their way to promote the idea that trans and nonbinary students should be afraid to go relieve themselves during the day, this matter needs to be addressed with serious action, not just a reaction without follow-up. 

There have been accounts of this being a recurring problem and this needs to be addressed. An anonymous source and member of Transaction, the transgender support club on campus, has said:

“Yeah, I’ve heard about those [the signs]. A friend of mine is a math major and that’s where most of the math department is. He’s taken them down before but they keep getting put back up.”

While to some this matter may not seem like the utmost of importance, this is about safety and security on campus. If the people or persons who are posting these sorts of signs are not held accountable, or the SUNY New Paltz community does not take action in order to promote the safety of vulnerable students, soon it will not be signs, but it could be emotional or physical attacks. LGBTQIA+ people are under attack in this country, and New Paltz has generally been a safe haven for our people. We hope it will stay that way. 

We would like to thank you for your time and consideration in reading our letter. We hope that you will continue to take action that supports the student groups on campus that tirelessly work to encourage inclusion and safety for the LGBTQIA+ community, such as Rivera House, Pride and Transaction. We also hope that these incidents will be investigated to the fullest and consciousness-raising will be done on this campus in order to prevent more heinous incidents.