What is a gender-neutral washroom, and why is it an equity issue?
A gender-neutral washroom is a single-person facility which is not labelled male or female but rather is available to anyone, no matter what their gender identity or biological sex. Basically, it is the same type of washroom found in a private home. Nobody polices the sex or gender of those who enter or exit because the sign on the door clearly indicates that everyone is welcome.
Gender-neutral bathrooms are an equity issue because many queer and trans persons face discrimination when they enter or exit gender-segregated washrooms. For example, when a masculine-looking lesbian or a transgendered person or transsexual woman enters a women's washroom, she is often subject to harassment in the form of insults, questions about her gender, "whispers" designed for her to hear, or simply looks of confusion from other women in the room. If the same person decides therefore to use the men's washroom, she risks both emotional and physical harassment if her gender is discovered. Her marginalized position, not fitting into either rigidly defined, sex-derived category of gender, leaves her with nowhere to go. The same holds true for the case of feminine-looking or transsexual men.
As a result, differently-gendered persons often avoid public washrooms altogether, but the repression of bodily functions can cause physical health problems and emotional distress over the long term.
One option for differently-gendered persons is to seek out disabled washrooms since they tend to be gender-neutral. But, because not all disabled washrooms are gender-neutral, this is also an inadequate solution.
The availability of gender-neutral washrooms is also a privacy issue in the broadest sense. Single-person, gender-neutral washrooms provide privacy to any individual who requires it, no matter what his or her reasons. For example, some people may seek these facilities because they facilitate the use of environmentally-friendly menstrual products such as the Keeper, other people may seek them due to shyness, while still others may require them for medical reasons, such as diabetics who must administer insulin injections to themselves.
Single person, gender-neutral washrooms thus become the best solution to ensure access and to eliminate barriers for all persons, no matter what their gender, physical ability, health status, or shyness. Currently, very few buildings on campus are equipped with these non-discriminatory facilities. The best way to ensure equitable treatment of differently-gendered and differently-abled persons would be the renovation of current facilities on campus in order to provide at least one gender-neutral washroom in every current building, and ideally one on every floor of every newly-constructed building.
Supported by the Joint Senate Board Committee on Equity, May 2007.
The university shall assure the existence of at least one gender-neutral washroom in every newly constructed building on campus, and preferably one on every floor of every newly constructed building, where possible.
The university shall modify any existing single-user washrooms on campus by resigning them with gender-neutral signs and adding interior door locks. These cost-effective measures should be applied to all existing single-user washrooms where possible, with the minimum goal being one per building where such single-user facilities exist, and preferably one per floor where such pre-existing single-user facilities exist.
List of gender-neutral washrooms on campus
- Arts Building: basement between TA offices B & C
- Barton Building (Mac): near the entrance to Macdonald Campus Library
- Bronfman Building: basement #030; 4th floor #416
- Brown Student Services Building: 2nd floor next to #2003; 3rd floor between #3004 & #3110; 5th floor next to #5100
- Burnside Hall: 6th floor, next to elevator
- Chancellor Day Hall (New): 2nd floor, two, one each side of lecture hall; 5th floor, two, one next to each elevator; 6th floor next to #620
- Education Building: basement room #B136 across from the Psycho-Education Clinic
- Genome Building: 2nd floor #2012 & #2013; 3rd floor #3014; 4th floor #4014; 5th floor #5011, 6th floor #6011; 7th floor #7011
- F.D. Adams Building: Ground corridor #7; 1st floor #122
- Leacock Building: 5th floor, left exiting from elevators, across from #537
- Macdonald Engineering Building: 2nd floor next to #285
- McLennan Library: 5th floor, two; 6th floor, M6-37C
- Morrice Hall: Ground floor #015
- New Music Building/Library: A208; A302; A402; A502
- Pulp & Paper Research Centre: 2nd and 3rd floors; basement #13 & #15
- Strathcona Music Building: 3rd floor #E323 & #E324
- Thomson House: 4th floor
- Trottier Building: 1st floor #1040; 2nd floor #2040; 3rd floor #3040; 4th floor #4040; 5th floor #5040
- University Centre (Shatner): 4th floor, two, one on each side of stairs
- Wilson Hall: Ground floor #109
- Wong Building: 5th floor #5060; 7th floor #7060
Buildings which do not yet have accessibility
* Designates a building in which existing facilities could be upgraded easily and cost-effectively in order to meet gender-neutral requirements by merely changing the signs and/or the locks on the doors.
- Centennial Center (Mac)
- Chancellor Day Hall (Old)
- Gelber Law Library
- Institute of Parasitology (Mac)*
- James Administration Building
- Macdonald-Stewart Building (Mac)
- McConnell Engineering Building
- McIntyre Medical Building
- Otto Maass Chemistry Building*: 4th floor #431
- Peterson Hall
- Raymond Building (Mac)
- Redpath Library
- Rutherford Physics Building
- Stewart Biology Building
News: The University of Calgary's student newspaper, The Gauntlet, has cited our initiative as a model to follow! The Gauntlet reports that the University of Alberta is also working on this important issue.