Gender is not a binary

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Gender is not an either-or situation, and university washrooms should respect this reality

“Is it a boy, or a girl?”

This is the first question any friend or relative asks when they learn that you or your partner are pregnant. This innocent question captures the gender binary way of thinking which determines what gifts to give the expecting parent(s) and the newborn child. These gifts will be gender specific as, despite the changes occurring in society today, newborn females are often given gifts and clothes that are pink, which is considered feminine, and males are the recipients of blue presents and items. The simplicity of assigning a colour to a gender seems harmless, but the mentality of the binary of gender leaves many people behind.

With the recent news of gender-neutral washrooms being available for students at the University of Victoria, it is no surprise that this issue has come up again at the University of Regina. Last year, URSU called for gender-neutral washrooms to be created on campus. The Carillon covered this story and questioned students, at random, that replied in support of having gender-neutral washrooms. While questioning random students might not provide an entirely accurate sample of what the majority of the student population wants, I believe that this is a good sign that the campus community and the students enrolled here are interested in making this positive step towards inclusion. There are washrooms all over campus that could be converted to gender-neutral washrooms. This could even reduce wasted space on a campus running out of space to teach classes.  If it were possible, at least as a start towards inclusion, I think two of the washrooms in the Education building, (near classroom ED 113) could easily be converted to gender-neutral washrooms. Both would be spacious enough to be converted, as well as be accessible for students who are differently-abled. This is only a suggestion, however, and it will take more than replacing a door sign to make a female or male washroom into an “official” gender-neutral washroom.

Another sad contributing fact is that the student population, despite breaking enrollment records this year, is perhaps not high enough to justify the expense of building new gender-neutral washrooms. In the meantime, it would likely be beneficial to set aside at least a few washrooms and change the signs to test how students would adapt to the change. This test could eventually be used to help justify the expense of building or renovating even more washrooms on campus.

Sometime in the future, I hope the next discussion surrounding public washrooms will be put to rest. Until that day, it doesn’t hurt to take a few small steps.

Jordan Palmer
Photographer

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