Occupied! Not enough gender-neutral washrooms on Montreal campuses: advocates

In this file photo a sign shows a gender-neutral washroom. Advocates are pushing for more gender-neutral bathrooms in Quebec schools. Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Global News

Montreal’s Universities and CEGEPs are heading in the right direction when it comes to allowing access to gender-neutral washrooms but there is a long road ahead, according to Gabrielle Bouchard a trans advocacy coordinator and public educator with Concordia’s Centre for Gender Advocacy.

“Concordia University is one thousand light-years ahead of the others,” Bouchard said, adding the school has more than 100 single-stall gender-neutral washrooms on campus.

Bouchard said the school has been “pretty amazing” at accommodating the needs of the transgender community and that others should follow suit.

“It’s a super easy fix, all you have to do is change the sign,” Bouchard said.

While Concordia may be the watermark for progressive change in schools it also has its flaws Bouchard said.

The single-stall washrooms are spread around the campus and are hard to locate.

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“It has been a painful struggle for the past two years, to get the exact number and exact location of these washrooms,” she said.

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The gender-neutral washrooms are not easily accessible to all students and require an access code because the lavatories are also shared with wheelchair users.

“Trans students have to plan ahead of time,” Bouchard said. “Some students say ‘I just won’t drink today’ because they do not have a safe place to go to the washroom.”

Julien Rose Johnson, a transgender student at Concordia, said he and his friends, “are very vigilant of our liquid intake.”

Johnson was at the forefront of a two-year long, successful fight for gender-neutral washrooms at Dawson College. Last year the CEGEP transformed two male washrooms into non-binary ones, that have no gender affiliation and are open to both sexes.

WATCH BELOW: Gender-neutral washrooms 

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Dawson was the first college in Quebec to have multi-stall gender-neutral washrooms. Concordia has followed suit and has two multi-stall gender-neutral washrooms on the downtown campus located at the Hive and Reggie’s Bar.

Vanier College launched an initiative last year that has resulted in 15 gender-neutral washrooms on campus.

READ MORE: A more tolerant country? Most Canadians support transgender rights, poll suggests

McGill University was an early adopter of gender-neutral washrooms. In 2007 it adopted a policy that would, “assure the existence of at least one gender-neutral washroom in every newly constructed building on campus,” according to McGill’s equality and diversity website.

The website also states that existing single-user washrooms on campus will be turned into gender-neutral washrooms. They will be marked with signs that show both sexes.

Johnson,  says he hopes to inspire and is “happy to have people like Gabrielle Bouchard,” helping push for the right to feel safe in school washrooms. “It’s fair to ask for more, at the end of the day it’s just a bathroom,” Johnson said.

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