The current cultural and political uproar over bathroom access for trans individuals turned into a complex design challenge for Yale Professor of Architecture Mr. Joel Sanders. His design firm in New York City began developing prototypes in 2015 for all-gender and all-inclusive public bathrooms that seek to accommodate people regardless of age, gender, race, religion and disability. Last year he began looking for collaborators from the Yale School of Public Health to expand the interdisciplinary expertise of his team which already included an attorney and a trans historian.
Ms. Antonia Caba, now a second-year MPH student in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, was the perfect fit. She had already looked at how trans individuals choose which public bathroom to use as part of assistant professor Dr. Danya Keene’s qualitative research methods class.
“When trans students’ idenities are not aligned with the binary bathroom choices of male or female, we found that they expend intense mental energy to make these decisions as to where to try to fit in,” said Ms. Antonia.
For her MPH internship last summer, Antonia dug deeper into questions about how environmental designs affect health and well-being. Continuing her work with the Sanders’ team on the “Stalled!” project, she began an evaluation of how college students feel about existing prototypes. Her mixed methods study to date has included nearly 200 students from diverse networks across Yale.
“In the body of public health work on the built environment, we so often treat the built environment as static. It is often just about access,” said Ms. Antonia. “This study goes further by asking what features make it a safe and affirming place. It considers what it means for space to shape health.”Tags: Friday Letter Submission, Publish on October 25