University of Victoria fights gender discrimination with new co-ed bathroom facility

Jordana Divon
Contributing Writer
Daily Brew

Co-ed washrooms hit the mainstream, at least in the modern era, around the days of Ally McBeal (remember that golden era of television long past?).

So it's not as though the University of Victoria's new gender unspecific facilities are breaking new ground.

In fact, similar washrooms can already be found at McGill, York, U of T, Dalhousie, and the University of British Colombia — some even including shower stalls in co-ed dorm buildings.

The issue is still a timely one, however.

As CTV News reports, UVic's "multi-stall, gender inclusive" toilets at the school's Student Union Building are being touted as a step toward fighting discrimination.

The unisex stalls will provide a safe haven for transsexual students who fear the questioning — and occasionally the abuse  — they can receive for entering a single-sex-depicted door.

"And I'm like yes I know. I'm a guy," transgendered student Dylyn Wilkinson related to the news network of his past experiences in the men's room. "We always think that sort of thing doesn't happen here, but unfortunately it still does."

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In fact, restrooms have become a key issue in the fight for transgendered rights across North America, raising complex questions about segregation and gender identification.

Parents or caregivers with a child of the opposite sex can also find an easy way to avoid the men's room or ladies' room conundrum.

Plus, students who feel uncomfortable using a unisex facility can simply opt to do their business in one of the six gender-specific bathrooms around campus.

But that hasn't stopped a chorus of criticism (albeit a tiny one) from students at the progressive B.C. school.

"I don't think I'd want to go to the bathroom with my (male) friend. It'd just be weird," one female student told a CTV reporter.

The Student Union has also received three complaints regarding the matter.

Across Canada, Maclean's notes that some females tend to express more discomfort at the idea, based on issues of propriety and cleanliness.

An 18-year-old Queen's student told the magazine she noticed a marked difference in the "gross" factor of co-ed washrooms and would go out of her way to use all-female facilities.

"It just smelled so much worse," she said of the boys-and-girls optional. "The girls' ones were generally very clean."

Both men and women have pointed out that they felt embarrassed to heed to the call of nature in front of a member of the opposite sex, though York University student Jonathan Kates told Maclean's that people need to get over their inhibitions.

"It's like Vegas— what happens there, stays there," he said of co-ed bathrooms.

At the core of UVic's decision, however, is making their campus a safer, more inclusive place.

"We believe that it's important people can access public spaces without fear of harassment or discrimination, and that's something we've seen happen in this building," UVic student society chairperson Emily Rogers told CTV.

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