Nowhere to go
You’ve been sitting in class for three hours. Maybe that extra-large coffee wasn’t such a great idea, because you REALLY need to pee. You rush to the nearest bathrooms, and there you are confronted with a choice: men’s or women’s?
For most, the decision is clear. If your gender identity matches the typical expectations of what a man or woman is, you’ve probably never thought twice about which bathroom to use.
But what if your gender identity doesn’t fit neatly into one of the two categories? What if you are transgendered, or gender queer? What if you consider yourself both male and female, or neither?
In a recent Calgary Journal article, it was pointed out that there are no gender-neutral bathrooms at Mount Royal University, something other universities in Canada have started to implement.
Though MRU does have bathrooms in some of the newer buildings that are accessible by anyone regardless of gender, they are specifically designed for those with limited physical mobility, and are not available in the older campus buildings.
That’s not enough.
Gender non-conforming students, faculty and staff already have to deal with constant reminders that they are “others” who don’t fit in to the gender paradigm our society subscribes to.
They shouldn’t have to worry about something as simple as finding a bathroom that doesn’t exclude them based on who they are.
Male, female, or any other gender identity, we all have bladders — and it’s a basic human need to have access to a toilet.
Gender-neutral or gender-inclusive washrooms — accessible and welcoming to anyone, regardless of their gender identity — would send a message of inclusion to MRU’s gender non-conforming individuals, reassuring them that they are a part of our community and that they deserve the same considerations and services as everyone else.
There’s not even any need for costly renovations or bathroom overhauls. All it would take is a simple change of door signs, from “male” and “female” to “everyone.”
There are possible legitimate concerns with the idea of every bathroom being “co-ed,” but even making a couple of them into gender-inclusive spaces would be a start.
It would also give everyone a chance to see that peeing in the same general vicinity of someone who (gasp!) isn’t the same gender might not be as big of a deal as we’ve been led to believe.