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Published May 09, 2013, 10:05 PM

Men’s or Women’s Restroom? The choice isn’t that easy for transgenders

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - It's something most of us don't think twice about: which bathroom we will use.

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - It's something most of us don't think twice about: which bathroom we will use.

But because gender-diverse students are often subject to harassment and violence when using certain restrooms on campuses, a growing number of universities, including NDSU, are creating gender-neutral bathrooms.

NDSU Graduate Student: “If you think about it everyone is just there to take care of things and get on with their day, so it shouldn't be this big stressful event.”

Those are the words from an NDSU graduate who knows the struggle all too well. It's something as simple as going to the bathroom, but for students who identify as transgender, it hasn't always been so simple.

NDSU Graduate Student: “You have to time things where there will be a big flow of students. You might have to go over to a different part of the building and that's pretty inconvenient.”

Using the bathroom for this student who declined to go on camera, because of safety reasons became such an issue it would take about 5 to 10 minutes extra each time he'd have to go.

NDSU Graduate Student: “It can add up pretty quickly.”

One occasion sticks out in his mind the most, when a previous employer forced him to use the women's restroom.

NDSU Graduate Student: “I didn't feel like that made sense because, you know, women are going to freak out if I go into the women's restroom, and I look like a man.”

He quit that job after four hours of work on his first day.

NDSU Graduate Student: “It was kind of a traumatic experience.”

To increase comfort and safety for all transgender students, more bathrooms like this gender neutral one will be popping up around campus.

Kara Gravley-Stack, Director/Diversity Initiatives: “A lot of the time issues are coming to our attention because we have had transgender people on campus who are willing to tell us here's a problem that you're not thinking about.”

Kara Gravley-Stack is the Director of Diversity Initiatives on campus. She's helped implement more of these family, single stall, or gender neutral restrooms on campus.

Gravley-Stack: “I think this sets a very strong message.”

Kristen Benson is an Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Science. She's says there's a lot of misconceptions and discrimination surrounding the topic.

Kristen Benson, Asst. Professor/Human Development: “We hear a lot of uninformed comments about what people are doing in the bathroom, but really all they want to do is go to the bathroom.”

But adding more of these types of restroom is a step in the right direction.

And although the NDSU graduate now uses the men's restroom comfortably, he'll never forget the struggle of the simple, daily task that was once so difficult.

In 2011, the Department of Residence Life implemented a Diversity Committee initiative to transition 15 bathrooms across a number of residence halls to become Gender Neutral Bathrooms.