Gender-neutral washrooms are popping up on campuses across Canada, including the University of Alberta, the University of Victoria and the University of Regina. To do their part here at the University of Calgary, the Q Centre is now working with Student Services to bring these washrooms to campus.
Gender-neutral washrooms are meant to help transgender students who fear ridicule or harassment based on which washroom they choose to use. Advocates for the washrooms say the fear of gender-based violence on campus creates anxiety with day-to-day decisions as simple as which washroom to use — a decision most students make without thinking twice.
Gender-neutral facilities are not just for transgender students, but also for parents with children and persons with disabilities who have a personal care attendant.
This issue has been brought to the attention of Students’ Union vice-president student life Ben Cannon who said he will help lead the initiative for the project on campus.
“It is something I would like to see happen in some form before the end of my term,” Cannon said.
Currently, the U of C is looking to change signage for existing single-stall, lockable campus washrooms as well as implementing a multi-stall, gender-neutral facility.
The Q Centre has posted a list of private, single-stall campus washrooms on its webpage so people facing this issue know which washrooms they can use stress-free.
Gender-neutral initiatives are on the radars of an increasing number of university staff and students, including U of C sexual harassment advisor Shirley Voyna Wilson.
“I am aware of the initiatives that have been undertaken at other universities regarding gender-neutral washrooms,” Voyna Wilson said. “I would support the U of C in undertaking a review of what their needs are.”
On Sept. 1, 2013 the U of A launched a map of all private single-stall, lockable washrooms on campus. The map is meant to help students quickly find the washrooms when pressed for time.
Gender-based violence protection project co-ordinator Melanie Alexander and Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services education co-ordinator Alexis Hillyard were integral to the creation of this map.
“The discussion around this issue has been really positive,” Hillyard said. “When you talk to students and people in the area, they are happy that the university is recognizing this important
The U of A established the gender-neutral washroom committee early in October 2012 to create an improved environment for transgender students through the introduction of the washrooms.
Alexander and Hillyard are also active at the U of C, helping draft a proposal to establish multi-stall, gender-neutral washrooms in MacHall.
“Some of the feedback has just been around people not knowing that this is a necessity, which really does give us a push for creating multi-stall, gender-inclusive washrooms,” Alexander said. “We really want people to know that this is happening on campus and that it is something that needs to be pushed even further.”
A multi-stall, gender-neutral washroom will not be approved at the U of A until funding and other logistics are confirmed. The U of A hopes to make their campus more gender-neutral by looking at forms and processes to protect transgender students.