The Canadian National Exhibition has become the latest Toronto organization to introduce gender-neutral washrooms and signage, but advocates say there is still more to be done to promote inclusivity.
The new portable washrooms, which will be fully rolled out over five years, feature signs on each stall door with the saying, “We don’t care,” and picture a half-female and half-male individual merged together.
Virginia Ludy, the CNE’s general manager, said she originally found the signs online and wanted to use them for the new facilities.
“I just absolutely love them because they’re so easy to understand – anybody can use those washrooms,” Ludy said.
She also said gender-specific washrooms have resulted in long lines, so Ludy hopes this will help address that issue.
Jack Hixson-Vulpe, an education and training specialist with The 519 Centre – a local organization dedicated to providing services and community spaces for the LGBTQ community, said seeing gender-neutral washrooms and signage is a good indication that the organization is thinking about providing safer, more inclusive spaces.
Hixson-Vulpe said gender-specific washrooms are still difficult for many individuals, such as those who identify as transgender or two-spirited.
“There are places in the United States and we have issues in Canada where folks are being denied access to washrooms based on their lived identity,” Hixson-Vulpe said.
When asked about the new signs at the CNE washrooms, Hixson-Vulpe said while the spirit and message behind the signage is useful — it could be more inclusive by featuring a picture of a toilet with expanded messaging.
“While I think eliciting a laugh, which can be really good, can also potentially be a little bit difficult because again people have to fight for the washroom of their lived identity,” Hixson-Vulpe said.
Hixson-Vulpe said often accessible, single-stall washrooms are designated gender-neutral, but added there needs to be a broader discussion about facilities with multiple stalls.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Police Service recently installed a gender-neutral washroom on the second floor of their College Street headquarters and unveiled it during Toronto’s Pride Month.
Staff-Sgt. Ron Boyce said it wasn’t just about meeting a growing community need, it was also meant to act as a symbol of inclusivity.
“Overall, it has been quite good,” he said, adding that the the washroom has surprised some people.
“I mean literally you will have still have some people who will still be a little skeptical about using the washroom.”