REGINA, Saskatchewan, February 21, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – An LGBTQ advocacy group at the University of Regina is congratulating itself for being instrumental in the establishment of “gender neutral” restrooms at the school.
“After two long years of planning and negotiating, the University of Regina will have 10 gender neutral washrooms on campus,” the UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity announced last week on its website. “We will also have a hilarious 'how to guide' available shortly.”
Washrooms catering to LGBTQ students are already de rigeur in many Canadian universities, including Dalhousie, St. Thomas University, Queens, Carleton, McGill, the University of Victoria, and the University of Manitoba, to name but a few.
The newly designated bathrooms on campus are the same single person-use facilities that previously had a sign indicating they could be used by either sex. They are marked by a male and female stick figure and the word “restroom”.
New signs now show the same stick figures but “restroom” has been replaced with the words “gender neutral,” followed by an explanation that reads: “This restroom may be used by any person regardless of gender identity or expression”.
The university student newspaper, The Carillon, noted that gender-confused individuals using sex-segregated washrooms complained they were subjected to “harassment,” such as bewildered stares and questions from other restroom users.
Leah Keiser, executive director of UR Pride, told The Carillon, “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.”
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“We have a lot of personal stories around here … Quite frequently I get harassed in the women’s washroom,” Keiser said.
“More or less the whole, ‘Umm, are you supposed to be in here?’ kind of conversation,” he said. “And…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”.
Barbara Pollock, the university's vice president of external relations, said, “Around here we have about 13,000 people in our community…and in that group there are people who can feel threatened in a single gender washroom. When we were asked if we could consider converting some to gender-neutral we said, 'Yes, let's do it'.”
When asked by LifeSiteNews.com for details on situations where students were threatened, Ms Pollock referred back to the statements made by Leah Keiser and gave no other comment.
The terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” are themselves contentious. Even those advocating these concepts are elastic cannot agree on what they mean.
A federal committee hearing on proposed legislation to have “gender identity” and “gender expression” included as protected categories in the hate crimes sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code ended in confusion over the terminology. The bill's sponsor, NDP MP Randall Garrison (Esquimalt – Juan de Fuca), was not clear as to who would be included and who excluded in these terms.
Barbara L. Pollock, Vice-President (External Relations)
University of Regina
Regina, SK S4S 0A2
Phone: (306) 585-5163
Cell: (306) 536-8119
Fax: (306) 585-5255
E-mail: [email protected]