Starting Friday, April 24, new signage will appear at the entrances of several single-occupant washrooms across all of MacEwan University’s campuses. The signs will indicate that the private, single-occupant washrooms will be accessible to all genders. The washrooms may be used by anyone: gender variant individuals (including transgender or two-spirited individuals), people with disabilities who have a personal care attendant, and people with chronic illness.
The need for change
Transgender and gender variant individuals often experience open or covert emotional abuse and physical harassment when using gender-segregated washrooms. All-gender washrooms are important in contributing to their sense of safety, well-being, and security when exercising their basic right to use a washroom.
The change comes at the request of the Students’ Association of MacEwan University (SAMU). "It's a great move for students at MacEwan University," said Cameron McCoy, SAMU president. "All gender washrooms contribute to making our campuses safer, more inclusive and welcoming for everybody."
“University is a time of growth, learning, discovery and finding one's way in the world. We are happy to be part of that process,” said Cathryn Heslep, vice-president, Student Services for the university. “We are committed to supporting various diversity initiatives for students, faculty and staff, including all gender washrooms.”
In preparation for the change, the university consulted with Dr. Kris Wells, director of Program Services with the Institute of Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, and Marni Panas, an engagement and patient experience professional who is a member of the transgender community.
The signs do not include the traditional female and male graphics usually depicted on washrooms signs. "The use of the term "All Gender" is important," says Marni. "We don't use "sex" (as in "unisex") because gender is quite different than sex. Sex is a legal determination based on whether you are born with a penis or vagina. But that's not what makes your gender male or female - or somewhere in between. Signs that use the traditional male/female logos (e.g. girl wearing a triangle dress) show a binary ... view of what gender should be."
"The sign is small but the message is clear," says Marni. "It tells the community of staff, students and the public that the university is a safe and inclusive place. That all are welcome here. That I am welcome here. This is something that transgender people do not often hear... that we are welcome. In fact, quite the opposite."
Other diversity initiatives
As part of its commitment to providing an inclusive and safe environment for all its students, the university supports and encourages initiatives including The MacEwan University Diversity Project, as well as projects and clubs led by SAMU.
Get MacEwan University news delivered to your inbox. Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.