All-gender washrooms will soon be commonplace on campus, moving away from a model that upholds the gender binary.
No timeline has been given for renovations, but Vice-President Finance and Administration Robert Inglis said that signage for already-established all-gender washrooms will be implemented within the next two months.
Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education Service (SHARE) Advisor Melody Petlock, who has been working on the project, said there has been a “much more positive will to take action” in the last year.
“It was actually remarkably simple. We have a new VP who has been here for a year, and she is a great advocate,” Petlock said.
Kim Meade was hired as VP international and student affairs in 2014. Petlock added that Inglis and Director of Facilities Management Neil MacEachern have also strongly advocated for all-gender washrooms.
When asked about challenges in implementing all-gender washrooms, Petlock said that there was a time when she would have experienced a pushback to efforts, but not anymore. The problem has now shifted to building codes and issues with signage.
According to MacEachern, the university is bound by the New Brunswick Building Code Act in any work it does on campus facilities. The National Building Code, upon which the province’s code relies, currently stipulates that each building requires a certain number of toilets per sex (male and female) based on the building’s occupancy. According to MacEachern, this code is updated “every five years or so.”
Another issue with creating a more accessible campus is signage. While the signage proposed by Petlock has been approved, it has yet to go campus-wide. Signs will say “Washroom” and will include an image of a toilet and a wheelchair separated by a vertical line.
Some buildings on campus already have all-gender washrooms. These include, but are not limited to, the Marjorie Young Bell Conservatory of Music, the student centre, Bennett House, Bigelow House and Windsor House.
Upon request from residence assistants, dons and department members, Petlock has already installed all-gender signage in some campus buildings and residences.
The signs that were put up read “All-Gender Restroom,” followed by a brief paragraph explaining that the washrooms are a positive space where people of all sexes, genders and gender expressions are welcome and respected. It added that if anyone wanted to talk about the decision, they could contact Petlock.
Rogan Porter, a transgender man and former Mt. A student, said, “I had to strategically plan where I could use the washroom safely and no one should ever have to live like that.”
Porter remembers hearing about the possibility of having all-gender washrooms on campus since his first year at Mt. A.
”It shouldn’t have taken so long…I had to go through my entire transition wondering where I could pee next,” he said.