Transgender, non-binary students feel ‘exposed’ using Dixon’s all-gender changing room, gym looks to accommodate

Photo by Cameron Black
An employee sits at the equipment desk of Dixon Recreation Center. 

Teresita Guzman Nader, News Reporter

Students have expressed feeling exposed due to the location of the entrance to the all-gender changing room in Dixon Recreation Center at Oregon State University. The gym contains two all-gender restrooms and one all-gender changing room.  

In an effort to create a more inclusive environment for non-binary and transgender students, Dixon is discussing the possibility of renovating the existing locker room to create additional all-gender changing spaces. 

Mateo Garcia, fourth-year natural resources student, said they have been using Dixon’s facilities for four years.

“I am transmasculine and usually male-assumed and hold that privilege in my use of the facilities at Dixon,” Garcia said via email. “That’s what’s enabled me to use the men’s locker room for lockers/bathrooms from time-to-time; even if it wasn’t exactly comfortable, there is a degree of safety in being male-assumed.”

Dixon Recreation Center has two all-gender restrooms, and one all-gender changing room with a toilet, sink and accessible shower that is directly connected to the Stevens Natatorium, also known as the Dixon pool. This installation also has lockers available which are located adjacent to the all-gender changing room.

“That’s the changing room I’ve used, but I didn’t realize the lockers were for anyone to use! I just assumed they were for the pool; I’ve used the lockers in the men’s locker room but used the facilities in the all-gender room in the past,” Garcia said in an email.

Garcia said they think the all-gender spaces at Dixon should be more extensive, and they like that the spaces are accessible and offer privacy.

“But every time I’ve used it I’m self-conscious about potentially taking the space away from someone else who needs to use it. It’s also awkward the few times I’ve had to wait for it with my towel and change of clothes in hand,” Garcia said via email.

Brian Hustoles, associate director of marketing, communications and events at Recreational Sports said a renovation of the existing gender-based locker rooms was presented to the Student Fee Committee in the fall of 2018 as a priority renovation project in Recreational Sports’ 10-Year Capital Plan. The renovation of the existing locker room, which includes the creation of additional all-gender changing spaces, is currently projected at approximately $3 million.

“While Recreational Sports pursues this project, we have started to investigate temporary solutions. One plan under consideration is to convert the space adjacent to the current all-gender restroom by the pool deck into a changing room. This would add an extra private changing space,” Hustoles said in an email.

Garcia said they like that there are plans to make the current changing room larger, and they hope that there are steps to create another entrance closer to the equipment check-out desk, because they always feel exposed walking around to the all-gender changing room. 

Bill Callender, associate director of Recreational Sports said his team is constantly evaluating the spaces at Dixon with hopes of creating a more welcoming environment. 

“We have both long and short-term plans to provide members with more changing room options and to improve public and private changing spaces,” Callender said via email.  

During the 2020 winter term, Recreational Sports administrative staff, lifeguards, Adventure Leadership Institute trip leaders and student leaders in facility operations participated in a training called “Speaking of Transgender: Everybody Changes.” This training aimed to teach staff about respecting and advocating for gender diversity in changing rooms.

“In collaboration with campus partners, we strive to have all members of the OSU community feel welcome in Recreational Sports spaces,” Leah Hall Dorothy, executive director of Recreational Sports said via email. “At Dixon Recreation Center, we have both private and public changing spaces and all changing rooms are open for use by non-binary/trans students.”

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