Flushing Away New Washroom Ideas

MacHall's renovations on a gender- neutral washroom

MacHall’s renovations on a gender- neutral washroom

By Sophia L

From what were gender – segregated washrooms, now evolves gender- inclusive washrooms that anyone can access freely. Two separate stick figures on a sign mark the entrance to an all – gender washroom facility, featuring shiny bathroom tiling and regular open-ended stalls. Specified to cater to the needs of transgendered and gender non- conforming people, the University of Calgary administration recently approved gender- inclusive washrooms, proposed by Jonah Ardiel (the Student Union vice-president student life). “It has everything that we wanted. It has everything that the trans community wants,” Ardiel stated. Are these new washrooms really a crucial demand, or should the idea just be flushed away for good?

images-1The intention of gender – neutral washrooms is to flush away discrimination worries and spare transgender students of ridicule or harassment for choosing male or female washrooms. The goodhearted idea, however, would not necessarily reduce the amount of discrimination and harassment inflicted upon transgender people. According to a UCLA School of Law study on transgender people who use gender-segregated washrooms, trans people were told they were in the wrong bathroom, threatened or gawked at, and in certain cases they were even sexually or physically assaulted because they used a gender-segregated washroom. It is true that creating gender- neutral washrooms may lower the risk of discrimination and harassment towards transgender people, but it doesn’t really prevent harassment from someone genuinely dangerous; the new washrooms are accessible by everyone. In truth, if someone really wanted to harass a transgendered person, they could do so. A sign on a washroom door won’t stop them.

imagesSpeaking of safety issues and privacy, originally suggested as floor to ceiling partitions, the U of C administration later approved proposal calls for open-stalled, regular, washroom stalls. Although created as a gender- neutral washroom mainly suited for transgendered people, it is accessible by everyone. Considering the fact that anybody can access the washrooms, it is not necessarily any safer for transgender people. Also, both genders, as well as transgendered people, are using the same facility, with no major separations. Think about it: All genders are present in a public area meant for privacy. This ought to bring up major privacy concerns. When we worry about privacy, it is usually about the safety of women and kids. Personally, I would feel uncomfortable with other genders in an open- stalled washroom with me, due to the fear of getting harassed, which is pretty much the same story for a transgender person in a gender- segregated washroom.

With this being said, transgendered people who feel uncomfortable using public washrooms can just use single stalled washrooms. With single stalls, there is more privacy behind locked doors and no one to judge you and police your gender identity. It is private and solitary; there is no one to criticize; no one to see. Some may think that relieving yourself behind the locked doors of a single- stalled washroom is a matter of discrimination, as Ardiel said, “You have to close the door when you enter. It sends the message that (the transgender) are not welcome.” Is this not like washroom doors at home? When you use your home washroom, you usually have to close and lock the doors anyway. Besides, the point of a washroom is to pee and poo. No more. If you really think that urinating behind locked doors is a non- welcoming issue, then you should find yourself a better priority. Or if you really want, leave the door open when you go and see if you are any more welcome.

The bigger picture here is to respect transgendered people, and designing a new gender- inclusive washroom won’t compensate. The key idea should not be throwing an all- gender washroom out there to those who need it, but rather allowing people to recognize that anyone should be able to use the washroom they think is most fitting for them and not police their identity. U of C should focus their aims on getting people to respect transgendered people in general, rather than promoting other means of reimbursing, such as gender- inclusive washrooms.

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