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Gender neutral washrooms flush away discrimination
Men, women, transgendered – its all the same for washroom privileges at the University of Victoria Student Union Building.
Two formerly gendered washrooms in the SUB have opened as multi-stall gender inclusive facilities, allowing all people to share the same space.
"We're doing this in order to create safe spaces for everyone, because everyone deserves to go to the washroom without fear of harassment or discrimination," Emily Rogers, chairperson of the UVic student society, said on Thursday.
The washrooms, which opened a as gender inclusive space Wednesday (Aug. 29), now have a picture of a toilet on the door rather than a symbol of a male or female.
UVic is the first campus on the Island to adopt the multi-stall concept. The washrooms are for everybody's use, Rogers said, noting it also creates a safe and accessible space for families and caretakers.
Rogers hopes the initiative, originally started by UVic Pride about two years ago, will be a start of a larger social movement.
"It's one step to combatting institutionalized transphobia and gender-based discrimination," she said. "And we hope this will be a symptom of a larger social change and conception of how people view gender and view public spaces."
The initiative will act as a catalyst for education, added Ariel Tseng, director of finance and operations of the UVSS.
"These washrooms are not just a great space but it's a really good opportunity for people to learn more and take a moment to think about why these washrooms are gender inclusive."
The gender inclusive washrooms, estimated to cost $5,000, is not only an accomplishment for UVic but for the greater community, according to Dylyn Wilkinson, representative from UVic Pride.
Wilkinson said he's been harassed in gendered washrooms because of the way he looks and often only felt safe using single stall, or handicap, washrooms.
"If you don't look 'male enough' or 'female enough,' some people get it in their heads that it's their business to tell you you're 'in the wrong restroom,' which can be uncomfortable, and can occasionally lead to physical violence," he said.
"What people can learn from this is ultimately everyone needs a safe place to pee. That's really all anyone wants to do, is to be able to do their business without fear of their safety."
Feedback from students has been positive so far, however, there has been some shock.
"There are some confused looks at first but people are generally pretty supportive once they realize what's up," Rogers said.
While the society does not have current plans to include more multi-stall facilities on campus, it has been a conversation they've had with the university.
"We'd love to see the university follow suit," Rogers said.