UNC Chapel Hill installs new gender-neutral bathroom signs, students upset

CHAPEL HILL (WTVD) -- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has replaced some of the bathroom signs around campus as it prepares to designate 150 bathrooms on campus as gender-neutral by the middle of next month.

Some students are upset at the signage the school is using and said the signs fail to acknowledge people who don't identify with either gender.

The Campus YMCA building has five gender-neutral bathrooms that had their own signage until recently. The student-led organization fought to bring gender-neutral bathrooms to the campus and has had them in its building for almost three years.

Now, the students of the organization are upset that the University replaced their signs.

The two signs: The old sign on the left, the new sign is on the right.

Courtesy of Campus YMCA at Chapel Hill

Campus YMCA co-presidents, Regan Buchanan and Lauren Eaves said they feel the new signs fail to acknowledge people who do not identify as either female or male.

"We had gender-non-specific bathroom signage, so it embraced anyone of any gender expression or identity was allowed to use that bathroom." Eaves said.


Eaves said she's upset the school chose to use a female and male symbol on their sign because not everyone identifies as entirely female or entirely male.

WATCH: Lauren Eaves explains the difference in bathroom signage
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Lauren Eaves

Buchanan agreed and both said the new signage embraces the idea that gender is binary.


"We at 'The Y' believe that there are people that do not fit as 100 percent male or do not identify as 100 percent female and definitely there's a lot of fluidity and it's not a binary, and gender is a social construct after all, Buchanan said.

"So I think that just having a sign that displays the male or female depictions on the bathroom sign, it reinforces the idea that there is no in-between and that erases the identity of a lot of students who do not identify as either male or female but find themselves somewhere in between."

Regan Buchanan explains her interpretation of gender binary
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Regan Buchanan

The University told ABC11 in a statement that its depiction was chosen via federal recommendations.

"The signage installation in the Campus Y is part of the University's current push announced last spring to add another 150 gender-neutral single use restrooms to the campus-wide inventory by September 16. The pictograms on the signs follow federal government recommendations and take into account considerations including international recognition; that's important on campus because of the high volume of international visitors.

The University will update the interactive map published on this webpage to reflect the additional rest rooms by mid-September.

Below is a campus email from the administration, sent in April, that mentions this initiative (see highlighted section) and the ongoing work by the facilities team."

The highlighted portion of the email sent to the student body by University leadership, including Chancellor Carol Folt is included below, and the statement in its entirety can be read here.

"As we communicated two weeks ago, we accelerated the inventory of gender-neutral single use restrooms and have identified additional gender-neutral single use restrooms on campus that will be added to the list on the university website within the week. Over the summer, we will move forward to install gender-neutral signs at additional existing facilities and convert a number of single use gender-based restrooms to gender-neutral single use restrooms. Finally, facilities is developing a plan and timeline to renovate certain buildings that do not have gender-neutral single use restrooms."

Still, Buchanan is upset the modifications to the signage in the Campus Y building were made without the organization's input.

"It's their job to make sure that people who come here and pay tuition here feel comfortable and safe and the Y is committed to do that whether or not they are," Buchanan said.

RELATED: UNC President: Campuses must follow transgender law

Below is an interactive map of the gender-neutral bathrooms around campus at UNC Chapel Hill.

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