ALBERTA

Gender-Neutral Washrooms Introduced At University Of Alberta

08/29/2013 04:24 EDT | Updated 08/29/2013 04:26 EDT
AP
**ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY AUG. 26**A sign marks the entrance to a gender neutral restroom at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt., Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

Students at an Alberta university have one more option when looking for a washroom between classes.

The University of Alberta had introduced gender-neutral washrooms on campus, in the hopes that more students and staff feel welcome and comfortable while attending school.

The university, according to officials, has converted all its single-toilet washrooms into all-gender facilities to "address an important gap in washroom accessibility and universal access at the University of Alberta."

The change, says the school, will benefit transgender and gender variant students and staff as well as parents with children of a different gender, people with disabilities who require a care attendant, people with illness and people who require increased privacy or personal space.

There has been talk of gender-neutral facilities at the U of A since 2006, reports The Gauntlet, but it wasn't until the past year that the plan began to take shape.

The Gender Based Violence Prevention Project teamed up with The Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services' Safe Spaces to move the project along.

In the FAQ section of a brochure titled "Your Guide to All-Gender Washrooms on Campus," they explain the need for the gender-neutral facilities as:

"Traditional gender-segregated washrooms are potentially unsafe and intimidating places for a variety of people. Research indicates that many trans-identified individuals are frequently subjected to victimization, intimidation, and violence when using male/female washrooms. People who identify as, or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or gender queer also experience harassment and report feeling less safe in gendered washrooms. People who have children or provide care to people of a different gender deserve to use washrooms with comfort, safety, and ease."

The University of Regina made a similar move earlier this year when it opened 10 washrooms to all genders, reports CBC News.

McGill University and Queen's University also have written it into school policy that gender-neutral washrooms must be offered on campus.

“We see a lot of people on our campus who may be trans- or gender non-conforming who do have issues with the washrooms because they are forced to act on this binary," Melanie Alexander, with the Gender-Based Violence Prevention Project, told CBC News.

"So it’s this really vulnerable place to be when you don’t feel like you have places that reflect your gender expression.”

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