There’s only one in the University Community Centre, there are another two in Weldon if you know where to look, and there’s only 18 of them on the entire Western campus.
This is after the University Students’ Council was promised to eventually see 70 gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
According to Marissa Joffre, vice-president campus issues for the USC, in 2008 a list of 70 single stall bathrooms were given to the vice-president at the time, with the promise 10 of these would have signage indicating they were gender-neutral by the end of the year. Each year after would see 10 more bathrooms converted.
“If you’re stressed about going to the washrooms this campus isn’t accessible,” Joffre explained. She noted trans people could face violence, or even have to out themselves when using one of the single-gender bathrooms on campus.
“It is commonplace for transgendered individuals to develop bladder and kidney infections because they do not feel they are safe using single-sex washrooms,” Stephanie Armstrong, director of gender diversity and awareness with PrideWestern, explained. She noted gender-neutral bathrooms were not just for people who did not fit the dual-gender norm, but people who wanted more privacy or may need to wash before prayer would also benefit. Joffre noted her goal was to have the spaces available to whoever wanted to use them, whether the individual was out or not.
Armstrong is currently working with the transgendered community to create an inclusive symbol to label the new washrooms. Joffre explained by the end of the year she was hoping to be able to put a pamphlet in the Support Services Centre.
As Armstrong explained, providing the gender-neutral space is half the battle.
“As someone who has tried finding the gender-neutral washrooms between classes or on break during class, I know that these are often in the back corner of a building,” she said. “If there were more gender-neutral washrooms on campus with better signage, finding and using these washrooms would be easier for students and would support inclusivity on campus.”
Joffre admitted part of the stall on the part of administration may have been because past vice-presidents have had other priorities. “I feel like someone needs to be pushing this forward.”
She explained the administration had been receptive to this issue since she brought it up again, but she was left to figure out why the issue had been put on the back burner by the University.
Armstrong explained the bathrooms were one of many important steps to an inclusive campus.
“I do think it is a step in the right direction and sets an important precedent for supporting the diverse community that Western values so much.”