The University of Regina will finally be getting gender-neutral bathrooms, thanks to UR Pride.
After two years of campaigning, discussions are now at the phase of choosing the locations of the bathrooms on campus.
Gender-neutral washrooms are not a new thing, especially to universities across the country. Recently, Dalhousie University created 29 gender-neutral bathrooms. Queens, Carleton, McGill and the University of Victoria all have gender-neutral bathrooms, among many more.
“The premise of the washrooms would be that anyone, regardless of their gender identity, or sexual orientation … has access to this space. Literally anybody that finds a washroom uncomfortable to use can use it. It is meant to be an encompassing space,” said Leah Keiser, executive director of UR Pride.
Harassment that often occurs in bathrooms was one of the main points for creating these gender-neutral spaces on campus.
“There’s a lot of harassment that happens in washrooms for folks [who] aren’t filling gender expectations or presentations in those washrooms, and that creates a really hostile and unsafe environment for folks who honestly just want to pee and get on with their day … There’s a lot of people just holding it, which isn’t making an educational facility accessible for everybody,” Keiser explained.
Keiser, herself, is frequently a victim of the harassment that occurs from gender-specific bathrooms.
“We have a lot of personal stories around here … Quite frequently I get harassed in the women’s washroom. More or less the whole, ‘umm are you supposed to be in here?’ kind of conversation, and I’m like holy shit, can I just pee? You’re worried about me harassing you? Can I just use the washroom once without being harassed? That would be great. Thanks. That’s a pretty typical experience for me using the washroom here,” Keiser said.
Gender-neutral bathrooms are helping to open up discussions that were previously unknown, not thought about, especially when it comes to the troubles that binaries in gender create.
“I think it means another educational opportunity for a lot of folks here at the University who hadn’t thought of some of the inherent problems perpetuated by a gender binary,” Keiser said. “When we talk of a gender-neutral washroom, we’re not just talking of a toilet, we’re talking about an entire series of inaccurate notions of what gender should be.”
“There’s a lot of harassment that happens in washrooms for folks [who] aren’t filling gender expectations or presentations in those washrooms, and that creates a really hostile and unsafe environment for folks who honestly just want to pee and get on with their day … There’s a lot of people just holding it, which isn’t making an educational facility accessible for everybody.” – Leah Keiser
Ten washrooms around campus will be changed to gender-neutral washrooms with new signage made up to go with them. The largest push back UR Pride has faced so far was the issue of what was legal, in terms of the number of gender specific bathrooms a public institution needs. While UR Pride has no intention of turning all public washrooms into gender-neutral spaces, Keiser states a few need to be, to give people options. UR Pride and the U of R have been working closely with each other to make this idea a reality. Keiser is very positive about the working relationship the two share, and the victory they have accomplished together.
“A large section of the population can now use the washroom. It demonstrates a great working relationship between UR Pride and the University body as a whole … we have a lot of victories working closely with the University,” Keiser noted.
While no official launch day for the project has been announced, Keiser says the “unveiling of gender-neutral washrooms across campus [will be] pretty soon.”
Photo courtesy of queerty.com