UTMSU has launched a campaign advocating for more gender-neutral washrooms on campus. “Pee in Peace” launched during DisOrientation Week on November 3 and is looking specifically to convert the current male- and female-designated washrooms in the Meeting Place into multi-stall all-gender washrooms.
“Early in the year at our Queer Town Hall, students spoke about their desire for all-gender washrooms,” says UTMSU LGBTQ coordinator Miranda Jurilj, who cited requests for safer and more accessible washrooms from the UTM LGBTQ community as the reason behind the campaign.
The UTMSU Pee in Peace campaign mission declares, in part, “We believe that all people, regardless of their gender identification or presentation, have the right to access safe and dignified washroom facilities without fear of harassment, judgment, or violence.”
On campus, there are about 11 single-stall washrooms that are open for use by people of any gender. These washrooms are located in the Student Centre, Davis, the RAWC, and the library. If approved by UTM administration, UTMSU aims to designate at least one all-gender washroom in each building, though it is unclear whether those washrooms would all have multiple stalls.
“The first step would be to convert the male and female washrooms in the Meeting Place of the William G. Davis Building to multi-stall all-gender washrooms,” says Jurilj. “We would like the stalls to be updated so they do not have a gap between them, less of a gap at the bottom, and better-functioning locks.”
Renovations will also include mirrors available in each stall to accommodate the adjustment of a hijab or other private activities, and a sign outside each washroom designating it as open to all genders.
According to Jurilj, UTMSU has not yet estimated the cost for renovations and hopes the university will fund construction.
“We believe it is the university’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its students,” says Jurilj. “Therefore, their responsibility is to take on the cost of this project.”
According to Nythalah Baker, UTM’s equity and diversity officer, UTM does not currently intend to construct more all-gender washrooms on campus.
“At this time, the administration does not anticipate proposing new washrooms be built,” says Baker. “There are single-user, gender-neutral washrooms on campus, but administration is open to feedback on this.”
According to Baker, the U of T Washroom Inclusivity Project will be launched at UTM next year following its run at St. George earlier in 2014. The project maps out the location of, and identifies accessible features in, each washroom.
Other universities have already introduced gender-neutral washrooms on campuses across the country. According to Tynan Jarrett, McGill’s equity educational advisor, the campus has had more than 75 gender-neutral, single-stall washrooms since 2007, and intends to add 200 more. Dalhousie has an estimated 64 gender-neutral washrooms, while the University of Alberta has about 52 and is intending to construct a new all-gender washroom with multiple stalls.
“There are people who may not feel comfortable or safe physically, mentally, or emotionally using gender-segregated washrooms,” says Vincentia Kumala, executive director of [email protected] “It is just inconvenient and ineffective for students to walk from one building to another just to use the washroom, especially when they have to rush to class in a different building or during particularly bad weather.”
According to Jurilj, student feedback on the proposal has largely been encouraging so far, although Jurilj recognized budding misconceptions. “Some students mistakenly believed that we would be getting rid of male and female washrooms all together,” says Jurilj. “When they understood that that is not our intention they seemed to be much more on board for the project.”
The union intends to present the initiative to university administration after collecting student signatures backing the proposal. The petition is anticipated to be distributed in the second semester following additional campaigning.