Gender-Neutral Washrooms Coming to U of T Mississauga


Published October 11, 2016 at 3:26 am


You can’t stop progress.

Gender-neutral washrooms have been a hot topic for some time and it looks like they’re coming to U of T Mississauga this fall.

Professor Ulrich Krull, UTM’s interim vice-president and principal, announced the forthcoming washrooms during town hall meetings late last month. The project is expected to take shape this month.

Although there are single-use washrooms on all of U of T’s campuses and a multi-user privacy change room at UTM’s Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre, the all-gender restrooms are the first public facilities available at U of T.

“By expanding the washroom options on campus, we are able to offer conveniently located, accessible and comfortable facilities for a greater number of people,” says Nic Weststrate, UTM’s interim equity & diversity officer. “We heard from UTM community members—staff, faculty and students—who were concerned about the lack of options on campus for a basic everyday human function. UTM is an inclusive campus, and part of inclusivity includes ensuring space is available where people feel comfortable and the physical structure reflects their identity.”

As to where the facilities will be located, six existing single-gender washrooms will be converted into multi-user all-gender facilities in the Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex, Deerfield Hall and the Communication, Culture and Technology building.

Over the fall semester, new stall enclosures will be added and signage indicating the change will be installed. There will also be a public education campaign.

In the CCT building, urinals will be semi-private. In Deerfield Hall and the Health Sciences Complex, private enclosures will be installed around urinals, providing users with even more privacy.

Although the topic is (needlessly, in many ways) controversial, there are benefits to creating gender-neutral washrooms. Weststrate makes the salient observation that these types of washrooms make many members of the university community feel safe.

The washrooms will be beneficial to transgender people who find it genuinely difficult (and sometimes even frightening) to pick a gendered washroom, and they will also make life easier for parents with opposite-gender children who don’t want to leave their kids alone in or outside the facilities.

Weststrate also points out that people who prefer single-gender washrooms can still use them (they’re not going anywhere and can be found on other floors). 

“We want our campus community to be open and welcoming to people of all genders, and this is another step in the right direction,” says Mark Overton, dean of student affairs. “One of our goals is to help everyone find places to pee in peace. Although people have always been welcome to use the washroom they feel most comfortable in here, clearly identifying some washrooms as all-gender while keeping others gender-specific allows for greater, and hopefully more comfortable, choices for everyone.”

Although some may worry that this change will negatively impact the campus and put students in danger (some people seem to believe that magic force fields attached to single-gender signage keep predators out of women’s washrooms), it’s an inclusive and empathetic step in the right direction.

It addresses the needs of the transgender community and allows people who are more comfortable with multi-gender washrooms to use facilities that appeal to them. It also doesn’t remove single-gender washrooms from the campus, so staff and students who prefer traditional restrooms can still access them.

While UTM’s news is big, they’re not the first to take the plunge.

Multi-user, gender-neutral washrooms are coming to local high schools and they were recently implemented at the CNE.

Toronto restaurants such as Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, The Black Hoof and Beast all boast gender-neutral washrooms and have for some time (with no obvious ill effects, it seems).

Perhaps, in time, gender-neutral bathrooms will become the new normal and won’t incite harrowing discussions about what the world is coming to.

We all have to use the bathroom from time to time. Perhaps it’s truly no big deal to all use the same one. 

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