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Gender neutral bathrooms at Concordia

by Archives November 27, 2007

Last October the Concordia Student Union (CSU) passed a motion to install gender-neutral bathrooms on both campuses.
“[It’s a] basic human right, having the ability to go to the washroom without fear of violence, whether it’s emotional, physical, or sexual,” said Kate Lamothe, an active member of Queer Concordia.
Gender-neutral bathrooms are single stall bathrooms with a lock on the inside of the door. People of any gender can use them. Instead of the familiar man or woman sign on the door, one that’s neutral to both genders will be used.
For transsexual/transgender (TS/TG) students, those who live their life in a sex/gender that is different from the one assigned to them at birth, Lamothe said entering a public washroom can have a negative impact on the individual.
When asked what could happen to a TS/TG person in the bathroom, Lamothe said, “I don’t think putting people on display and tokenizing them.is appropriate. I’d rather just talk about prevention.”
While both Concordia campuses do have single user washrooms, they’re not as widespread, and are specifically for disabled students or faculty members.
Molly Haigh was the councilor who proposed the motion. As a former president of the Sexual Diversity Alliance of Concordia (SDA), Haigh is familiar with the issue.
“We were working on this issue all of last year in the SDA, but we didn’t know how to go about making an actual change.But this year when I got on council, pretty much the first thing I did was work on [the] gender-neutral bathroom initiative.”
Haigh said students who aren’t TS/TG also benefit from these bathrooms. She said they can have a changing table and be available to students with children. Students with temporary disabilities and women using alternative menstrual products can use them as well.
Two CSU executives who’ve been the most involved helping Haigh has been Mathieu Murphy-Perron, Vice-President for Loyola and Sustainability, and Shandell Jack, Vice-President of University Affairs.
Murphy-Perron said he’s helping because “Most people who think of sustainability think of the environment, there are other forms like social sustainability.”
For Jack, he said it’s a matter of helping students on campus feel comfortable. “No one should ever feel uneasy in our public washrooms, yet this continues to be the case. It’s an issue of safety, privacy, dignity and comfort.”
A motion on gender-neutral bathrooms was first proposed in June 2005, but no action was taken.
“Sometimes council can get very messy so they’ll lose sight of some of the issues people unanimously approve,” said Murphy-Perron.
“This time I think it’s going to be a little different.the administration has grown in the past few years and understands there is a need for gender-neural bathrooms.”
Jack has done additional research on the issue, and has consulted Gregg Blachford, chair of the McGill Equity Subcommittee on Queer People. Blachford said it was around 2002 when the committee raised this issue. McGill currently has 30 gender-neutral bathrooms on campus and the group is working on getting more built.
“Our goal is to make students feel as safe as they can on campus and [single user bathrooms] is one way we could go about doing it,” said Blachford.
Blachford said what got more of these bathrooms at McGill was providing an outline for the university’s administration. “We found it helped if we give a step by step what needs to be done as opposed to throwing the issue at them.because then they’re not going to tackle it.”
Haigh, Murphy-Perron and Jack have met with members of Concordia’s administrative faculty to move the issue forward, specifically Martine Lehoux (Director of Facilities Planning and Development), Peter Bolla (Associate Vice-President of Facilities Management) and Roger C

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