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Western’s washrooms go gender neutral

Ivana Pelisek | Interrobang | News | January 12th, 2009



The University of Western Ontario intends to open 10 gender-neutral washroom facilities on campus for the transgendered community at the post-secondary institution.

“The trans community is a small community; however that does not mean that it is forgettable,” said Cara Eng, Vice-President of Campus Issues at Western University.

According to Eng, who initially proposed the idea to the Vice-President of the University said, “the change is being implemented because I have been apprised of many of the difficulties that trans students (and staff) face on campus in terms of bathroom and private space. It can often be uncomfortable for a trans individual to enter a space when they fear they will face discrimination or violence, and therefore we wanted to be proactive in addressing the discrepancy in bathrooms...these bathrooms are not restrictive and the change of the sign implies that we’re now focusing on the function of the room rather than who may enter it.”

The changes are taking place to suit primary concerns.

“We are converting single stall washrooms to be accessible to both men and women. This is being implemented by replacing the sign on the door to say washroom. This idea was brought to the administration by our student government who had received concerns from students who did not feel comfortable using multiple stall single gender washrooms for various reasons including but not by any means limited to being transgendered,” said Susan Grindrod, Vice-President of Housing and Ancillary Services at Western University.

“The single stall washrooms were already in place across campus so we are beginning the process of replacing the signs on these washrooms.”

The washrooms are accessible by anyone who wishes to use them.

They are primarily concentrated in the University Community Centre (UCC) and buildings that are situated around the centre such as the Weldon Library, the Social Science’s Building and also Somerville House; where mainly arts and humanities courses take place.

According to Eng, the washrooms will be available in January and fully functional by April.

The washrooms exist at present, but will receive new signs indicating they are gender-neutral.

The sign will say “washroom” and will also be available in Braille on a purple background. If the washrooms are handicapped accessible, there will be a picture of a wheelchair clearly marked on the sign.

“This will be beneficial to all people and all members of our community because we’re being more inclusive, and we’re creating a safe space where any individual can use the bathroom regardless of gender identity...and also we are better educating the community on trans issues,” said Eng.

“The costs of replacing the signs on the washrooms will be the responsibility of our Physical Plant Division,” stated Grindrod.

Many Universities across the board already have gender-neutral washrooms present.

“These washrooms illustrate our on-going commitment to being an inclusive welcoming community for our faculty, staff, students and all who visit our campus,” added Grindrod.
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