As part of Corner Brook’s Pride Week celebrations, Grenfell campus’s first gender-neutral washroom was unveiled this week. The single-stall washroom was previously designated as being for males or females, but that label has since been replaced by the text “Gender-Neutral Washroom.”
The unveiling ceremony took place on September 25 in the Arts and Science Atrium.
Advocates for gender-neutral washrooms say that by establishing these spaces, people who do not conform to the gender binary of men or women, as well as transgender people, will feel more welcomed within the community. Gender-neutral washrooms also have been proven to reduce instances of harassment toward transgender people who would otherwise be forced to choose between male or female washrooms.
“It’s important that we’re addressing the issue of male and female gender binary designations since not everyone is included within those designations,” said Chelsea Noel, President of the Grenfell Campus Student Union. “It’s about a progressive institution making an inclusive environment for all students. This is the first of its kind for the entire university.”
When asked if a similar initiative would be taking place on the St. John’s campus, Kent Decker, Vice-President (Finance and Administration), indicated that this issue was brought forward several years ago. Since that time, the University has changed signage on 24 single-stall washrooms on campus in an attempt to make them more accessible. The washrooms were previously designated as either male or female, but have since been designated as for male, female, and accessible for persons with physical disabilities.
“Facilities Management did some searching to see if there was an appropriate international symbol. Obviously we have people who speak different languages on campus, so we wanted to designate using symbols which washrooms were transgender washrooms but were not able to find anything,” said Decker. “I believe it’s probably an appropriate time to consult with stakeholders on the issue to see if there are some suggestions of more appropriate symbols that could go on the doors instead.”
The Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union (MUNSU) indicated its support for this initiative and says it looks forward to working with the University to further promote existing spaces to ensure all students are aware of the locations. MUNSU also expressed interest in creating more gender-neutral washrooms on campus to increase their accessibility.
“MUNSU has been a long-time advocate for increasing accessibility on campus by creating gender-neutral washrooms,” said Candace Simms, MUNSU’s Executive Director of External Affairs. “We are very excited the university has taken these progressive steps and already introduced several gender-neutral washrooms at the St. John’s campus.”
Other universities across Canada have already begun the transition to gender-neutral washrooms including the University of Western Ontario in London, the University of Victoria, McGill University, York University, and the University of Winnipeg.
Photo Credit—Tom Cochrane.