The University Students’ Council is working with students to build more gender-neutral spaces on campus, including washrooms.
According to Landon Tulk, USC vice-president, Western University's Equity and Human Rights Services has been working on the gender-neutral washroom initiative. At the first USC council meeting this term, science councillor Frank Ye increased attention for this project by pushing for its discussion on campus.
“It’s an initiative that’s about moving towards achieving a more safe and inclusive environment for all Western students,” said Tulk in an email.
Tulk added that, while most campus buildings already have an inclusive washroom, they are not multi-stalled. At the Sept. 27 USC meeting, council passed a motion to convert the washrooms on the first floor of the University Community Centre into two gender-neutral washrooms. Located by the Starbucks, these washrooms will be converted later this semester. Tulk is also hoping to advocate for more gender-neutral washrooms in new buildings on campus in the future.
The gender-neutral initiative has seen help from student organizations, such as PrideWestern, Spectrum, GetReal, EngiQueers, AllyWestern and other queer-affiliated campus groups. According to Equity and Human Rights Services, gender-neutral washrooms will also benefit individuals with opposite-sex personal attendants, breastfeeding mothers, parents with children, individuals with health needs, individuals washing before prayer and shy individuals.
“It’s not just about how a person identifies and what type of washroom a person wants to use,” said Marie Fiedler, PrideWestern coordinator. “It’s also about how accepted they are within a space.”
Fiedler pointed to washrooms as a common site of violence and discrimination for trans and non-binary people. Acknowledging that people can identify anywhere along the gender spectrum, she believes the main reasons behind the need for gender-neutral spaces are safety and awareness.
“I think we often forget that the way we structure our spaces are exclusionary to many people,” Fiedler said.
Fiedler said a washroom consultation was organized by PrideWestern executives. They invited trans and non-binary students and community members to provide feedback on washroom signage on campus. She said the conversation generated by the gender-neutral initiative is a good step forward for Western.
A list of single-user, gender-neutral washrooms on Western's campus can be found here.