By Clare Morneau
Sacredness is often associated with religion and religious traditions, but also describes values and items that communities and individuals respect and treat with special reverence. Both meanings of the word ‘sacred’ align with the intertwined history of gender and sacred spaces. In fact, many religions have single-sex participation in their traditions, where men and women are have different spaces for practices like praying, eating, and washing. Differing spaces for men and women are also visible in school systems as well as government legislation that mandates single-sex public bathrooms.
Yale, however, has begun to take a different approach in terms of defining the community’s sacred spaces. In December 2018, after years of petitioning from students, the Yale Law School added two gender neutral bathrooms. Since then, gender neutral bathrooms have begun to pop up around campus, including in the majority of Yale’s residential colleges. There is now even a map that shows every All-Gender Restroom on campus (available online at the LGBTQ website). Similarly, Yale College housing has shifted to include “All-Gender Suites” as a housing option. How will these changes influence a larger wider mentality shift surrounding gender and spaces around campus?
It is worth examining how these changes could influence a wider mentality shift—could they prompt a transformative effect on the values of Yale University and the school’s community?
These actions, particularly the heavily news-covered bathrooms in the Law School, demonstrate the willingness of school administration to redefine Yale’s set of values, and perhaps its perception of “sacredness.” This progressive effort could enable Yale to be more inclusive for all students, faculty members, and visitors, and will help promote the message that the values that the campus holds sacred do not in all cases need to be rooted in tradition and years of history—instead, inclusion and openness can form the basis of Yale’s “sacred.”
Clare Morneau is a sophomore majoring in Global Affairs in Morse College. You can contact her at email@example.com.