By Melanie Woods, January 25 2016 —
University of Calgary students are coming forward with concerns regarding trans and non-binary accessible spaces in the university’s kinesiology building change rooms.
The change rooms currently include separate group spaces for men and women, but no individual or family changing facilities. Users have expressed concern with the lack of such spaces.
According to Active Living senior director Kurt Kinnear, three individuals have complained directly to Active Living about the lack of access in the last year.
Trans student Quinn Nelson originally brought their concerns to Active Living in November. Nelson said they were told to change in the Q Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity if they didn’t feel comfortable in either the men’s or women’s change rooms. They said the suggestion was well-intentioned but unhelpful.
“They just didn’t understand that that wouldn’t work,” Nelson said.
Nelson questioned the university’s lack of facilities in a Jan. 16 Facebook post subsequently shared by the Q Centre.
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Nelson hopes student concerns will lead to the creation of an inclusive space.
Trans student Brett Mason filed a letter of complaint with the university on Jan. 21.
“Though the person at the help desk said I could use whatever change room I feel the most comfortable in, that is exactly the problem — I don’t feel comfortable in either and likely wouldn’t be that safe in either,” Mason’s letter read.
Mason’s letter also highlighted a lack of access for disabled individuals and families.
“A gender neutral, accessible family change room would have a positive impact on accessibility in more ways than just trans accessibility. Most gender inclusive change rooms I’ve seen are also family change rooms and made to be accessible for people with physical disabilities,” Mason said in the letter.
U of C women’s studies program coordinator Rebecca Sullivan is working with concerned students to bring the issue forward to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Protected Disclosure, but wants to “do it right the first time.”
“It’s an urgent issue, but it’s an issue that needs some consultation, some reflection and some long-term solutions,” Sullivan said.
Kinnear said the university is open to working with concerned students to improve facility access.
“The building with the change rooms was built in the 1960s and at that time, such requirements, including family and individual change rooms, were not considered,” Kinnear said.
Similar concerns prompted the Students’ Union to submit a proposal for gender-neutral multi-stall washrooms on campus. The proposal was approved by administration in November of 2014 and the gender-neutral washroom officially opened in MacHall last year.
Gender and sexuality issues have been at the centre of heated debate in Alberta after the government introduced new guidelines surrounding LGBTQ students in schools earlier this month.