Gender-neutral bathrooms gaining popularity across Canada
It’s something you do everyday, multiple times a day. and comes as naturally as eating and breathing. But for many, the thought of going to the bathroom brings on real fear.
“There can be very violent interactions, police can even be called, people ejected from washrooms and others policing where they can and cannot go,” said Jacq Hixson-Vulpe, a senior consultant of special projects at The 519.
Not everyone identifies as a her or a him. Hixson-Vulpe identifies as trans non-binary, and goes by the pronoun they/them. Being welcome to use any bathroom that matches their gender identity is life affirming.
“The absense of an all-gender washroom, or policing who gets to go into washrooms, can lead to medical complications where individuals don’t have the space to go to the bathroom throughout the day,” said Hixson-Vulpe.
More and more institutions are getting on board, the Canadian National Exhibition, University of Toronto, University of Winnipeg and Ryerson University — and recently Yorkdale Mall — have introduced gender-neutral washrooms.
But Michael Bach, CEO of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, said Bill C16, which was passed last summer, means every public facility, including elementary schools, needs to conform and accommodate the LGBTQ2 community.
“The best practice would be don’t bother with urinals. Have stalls that have floor to ceiling walls and doors so that people can’t look in. A private space with locks, they do their business, and come out to wash their hands and it’s no big deal,” said Bach.
Even the signage posted on all inclusive restroom doors can be discriminating.
“Those stick figures of male and female forms are a pet peeve, especially when they get cutesy with the half female-half male and the sexless wheelchair user,” he said.
“Just use the symbol of a toilet. Everyone will get the message”
While perhaps well-intentioned, the word “unisex” on an all-gender bathroom can be offensive as well.
“We definitely encourage folks to stay away from term unisex because brings sex into the conversation when we’re focusing on gender and a spectrum of gender identities,” said Boch.