Perspective: A real world guide to the gender neutral washroom debate


Since I’m an active Trent Queer Collective (TQC) hub member, I was approached by Arthur and asked to write a short opinion piece on gender neutral washrooms.

And this is a short op-ed, so I won’t bother trying to cram in all my thoughts on gendered spaces. I’ll just put a disclaimer that while I am a member of the TQC, my views don’t represent us as an organization because well, we’re people. Although, what the TQC would like to see in the future would be the permanent instalment of a “code of conduct” in all Trent bathrooms, explaining to students their rights, and what is expected of them in this space. It would be pretty basic anti-gender identity discrimination type stuff. It wouldn’t hurt, we promise!

Speaking of everything being beautiful and nothing hurting, my stance on discussing bathroom politics is that we should, as glorious angels/unicorns, just photosynthesize sunlight and moonbeams for food and allow all to waste to seep out of our pores in a scented mist. Clearly, we have no need for toilets of any kind. Let alone doors with stick people on them.

Or wait, no. Let me try again.

We live in a real world and people have bodies with needs and even though I’d rather pretend that nobody poops, this is not true. Someday, we’ll have stillsuits to combat a global drought! But for now, people who don’t like or identify with a binary gender have just as much right to poop without getting harassed about which toilet they’ve chosen. Can we look the gender outlaw in the next stall in the eye, shrug and say, “NBD?”

If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we realize that it’s important to be safe and comfortable and fed before we can aspire to do much of anything. We have to fulfil our most immediate needs before we can focus on emotional or spiritual needs.

So, when queer students aren’t having their basic needs met, or are harassed and bothered while going about their business, we can see why this is a pretty serious issue. I really don’t think it should be. Because let’s face it. We all have the power to make every space positive, friendly, safe, or at least accessible. Because of this, I think it should be as simple as ahem, “Evacuating” in a neutral, inoffensive environment and then washing our hands of the whole affair. Because currently, I’d rather move onto something else. This the last article I’m going to write for the year, and it’s about poop. Makin’ my dad proud, one toilet joke at a time!

On a more serious note, there are a ton of concerns with this issue. For some reason, people seem to think that they’ll be sharing a washroom with creepy men as soon as a space is declared gender neutral. Perhaps Trent should have “gender neutral” and “creeper” washrooms? I’m a little concerned that people think a stick person in a dress is imbued with the magical power to ward of creepers. Let’s face it, creepers will go where they will, and education, not stick people, will solve the problem.

This bathroom debate draws up questions about who has access to space, as well as questions about gender policing. Who is entitled and privileged to take up public space? It’s usually not us queers, and as a white cis queer I’m allowed to access more spaces than most. So, here’s a basic field guide to humans of the bathroom:

Person peeing, washing their hands? Desperately avoiding eye contact, but exhibiting a gender presentation at odds with yours? They’re probably allowed, you judge Judy you.

Person standing in dark shadowy corner wearing a trench coat and breathing heavily? Probably a creeper. I recommend garlic.

A hand reaching out of the toilet? You’re playing Majora’s Mask and I can’t help you. No one can help you.

My stance on gender neutral washrooms is overwhelmingly pro, and while I’d love to get into a larger discussion on gender and safety on campus, I’m really sick of tałking about this shit.

P.S. The TQC is hosting a big gala knock-your-socks off drag show at Market Hall on April 3. The washrooms will not be gendered.

P.P.S. any one experiencing harassment at Trent University? The TQC wants to know, in order to better serve the Queer community. Email, drop by our office or send us an anonymous tumblr ask. Yes, we even have a Tumblr.