Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Douglas College introduces gender-neutral washrooms

Douglas College is creating a more inclusive space for students, staff and faculty with the introduction of gender-neutral washrooms.

All single-stall washrooms at both the Coquitlam and New Westminster campuses are now barrier-free.

The change was spurred by former Douglas College Student Union Pride Liaison Milo Leraar and former Douglas College student Brett Collins, who advocated for the creation of the barrier-free washrooms. The two students connected with College instructor Jaime Yard in 2013 through her Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality class and found an avid supporter.

“Students, faculty and staff need to know that they can get their biological needs met on campus without hassle. This is a big piece in making our campuses safe and inclusive places to learn and work,” Yard said.

The duo then connected with Markus McIntyre – then of SFU’s Out on Campus – to run a professional development workshop for Douglas College Faculty on LGBTQ positive spaces in classrooms. The workshop was attended by more than 35 faculty who supported the plea for barrier-free washrooms.

“I'm a student, a researcher, and queer. I constantly ask ’is this place safe for me?’ and worry that if I misjudge that I’ll suffer the consequences,” Collins said. “My time at Douglas had me hearing other students with similar concerns and experiences. I felt that if I could do anything to change this I should.”

After Leraar graduated with an Associate of Arts Degree, Collins continued the advocacy work with members of the DSU Pride Collective. With the help of volunteers, Collins and Yard assessed the state of all washrooms on the New Westminster Campus and made recommendations.

“All of the multi-stall washrooms are still marked with the traditional for male and female symbols. We take this to mean that anyone who identifies as male or as female is welcome to access these facilities,” Yard said.

The perfect opportunity to change the single-stall washrooms to inclusive, gender-neutral washrooms came when the College’s Facilities department was leading a project to update the signage at both campuses. After consultation with a variety of groups, all washroom signage was changed this spring.

“The message is that Douglas College is not a place for policing gender. We want people to have options on campus, and don't believe that you should have to declare your sex or gender to go to the washroom,” Yard said.