Fall 2013 Newsletter
Western Creates Gender-Neutral and Family Restrooms
A previous version of this article appeared in Western Today on October 16, 2013
Last month, Western converted ten single-occupancy men’s and women’s restrooms on campus to gender-neutral and family restrooms. Eight of the ten restrooms are ADA accessible. The Equal Opportunity Office coordinated this effort, with support from DisAbility Resources for Students, Facilities Development & Capital Budget, Facilities Management, the LGBT Advocacy Council, the Queer Resource Center (QRC), and Western Libraries’ Diversity Committee. The conversion responds to a May 2012 AS Board Resolution supporting the “expansion of safe and accessible gender-neutral restrooms on campus” and a request of the QRC.
Gender-neutral and family restrooms may be used by anyone. They can be particularly valuable in providing safe and reasonably accessible places for transgender and gender nonconforming students, faculty and staff to use restrooms on campus without fear of harassment. Providing the option of gender-neutral and family restrooms likewise allows transgender and other gender nonconforming individuals who do not feel comfortable using gender-specific restrooms to avoid health risks posed by not using restrooms during the day to avoid this possible intimidation. Gender-neutral and family restrooms can also be useful to individuals with disabilities who have an attendant of a different gender, and to parents and guardians who wish to accompany their children into the restroom.
Many transgender and gender nonconforming people experience harassment, and at times even assault, when attempting to access gender-specific public restrooms. Even when this gender policing does not occur at Western, experiences of it elsewhere can impact transgender and gender nonconforming people’s feelings of safety and acceptance when using campus restrooms.
Signage for the converted restrooms was designed last academic year by Olivia Flory, then a student and employee in the AS Publicity Center. Olivia has now graduated from Western. Rather than using the pictures found on traditional restroom signs, Olivia created a graphic that avoids stereotypical and gender-binary stick figure images.
The new gender-neutral and family restrooms are located in Campus Services, Morse Hall, College Hall, Old Main, Fine Arts and Wilson Library.