By: Madeleine Chan, Staff Writer
Imagine this: you’re walking in the AQ after a long, boring class. Suddenly, you’re hit with the urge to relieve yourself. You scan your surroundings, desperately hoping to spot one of those little square signs with a tiny person on it, indicating your renal freedom. You finally catch sight of one, but it’s designated for a different gender. You curse the gender-binary and its restrictions on your bladder before waddling off to find the toilet symbol that best fits your unique body.
Situations like these emphasize the need to abolish gendered washrooms, especially when gender does not play a factor in one’s ability to use toilet facilities. Gender, to be clear, is the set of attributes associated with one’s appearance that are expressed socially and culturally — through clothing for example. In contrast, sex is defined by biological charactersitics. Neither sex nor gender have clear-cut binary definitions, and both male and female washrooms currently have toilet stalls which can accommodate a range of genitalia. So why do we have separate rooms for peeing?
There are so many advantages to having non-gendered washrooms over gender-divided ones. It would be wholly inclusive of transgender and non-binary people. People who don’t fit into traditional social categories should have the right to pee without fear of dysphoria, ridicule, or the pressure to decide which of two categories they best fit into on any given day. It would also dispel the stigma around gendered washrooms and their intended users.
Students would also not have to pause their hallway gossip sessions, because their differently-gendered friends would be able to go into the washroom with them. In addition, cleaning staff would be able to shut down entire washrooms to clean while leaving another one open nearby and free for all students to find relief.
The popular argument against gender-neutral washrooms is that men would be able to spy on or otherwise victimize women more easily if the binary isn’t strictly enforced. And while creepy behaviour is a valid concern, what’s to stop people of any gender presentation from doing that now? It’s not like there’s a physical barrier that stops men from entering women’s washrooms. This argument only serves to hold up gendered barriers and perceptions of false difference.
To those who may still be really skeptical about this idea, imagine having two times the places to do a #2; two times the number of stalls during after-class rushes; two times the accessible stalls for the people who actually need them. Best of all, no out-the-door lineups for the women’s washroom.
SFU currently has a few gender-neutral washrooms scattered around the Burnaby and Vancouver campuses, but they’re tucked away in hidden hallways and only known by word-of-mouth or accidental discovery. It’s time to expand our gender-neutral washroom options at SFU and beyond. There are people everywhere who just need to pee. We shouldn’t let dated social systems police our right to relive ourselves in a comfortable and category-free environment. When nature calls, a gender-neutral washroom should be the answer.