New gender neutral bathrooms open at Notre Dame Campus


New gender-neutral bathrooms are now open at the Notre Dame Campus, similiar to this one at the Exchange District Campus. THE PROJECTOR/ Diana Chabai

Imagine attending a school where you don’t feel comfortable using the public bathrooms.

This is reality for some people who don’t identify as one of the two genders labelled on most public washrooms.

Red River College is trying to correct that. Gender accessible washrooms at RRC were first made available in 2011. Anyone can use them. The college developed a plan over the summer to build more at the Notre Dame Campus that are now open.

The plan is to offer more gender accessible washrooms while keeping gender specific ones, according to RRC’s diversity and intercultural services.

There are now eight gender accessible washrooms on RRC campuses: four in the NDC, two in the Exchange District Campus, one in the Paterson Global-Foods Institute and one in the Interlake Campus.

Establishing the washrooms started from student requests but is part of RRC’s goal to create a “safer and respectful environment within the college for all our students, staff and faculty — not just some of them,” Bradley West, the diversity initiatives coordinator, wrote in an email.

A 2013 University of California, Los Angeles study found 70 per cent of the 93 respondents—who identified as transgender or gender-nonconforming—using segregated washrooms had experienced verbal abuse and nine per cent had experienced physical abuse. Segregated washrooms originated around the same time as indoor plumbing, according to Time magazine.

Back then many public areas, like waiting rooms, trains and library reading rooms, were still segregated. Before that, public washrooms were for men only, so laws that made female washrooms mandatory were beneficial as women started entering the workforce. Basil Jafri, 22, is a business administration student at RRC. He said he thinks having gender accessible washrooms is obvious.

“We’re all doing the same thing, so why not use the same room?” Jafri asked.

The college has a number of initiatives available through RRC’s diversity and intercultural services to improve inclusiveness. One program is the Ally Project that works to create a supportive environment for LGBTT* people. There is also a free, self-directed online course about gender and sexual diversity.