McMaster students can now find 50 all-genders washrooms on campus. As per definitions from McMaster’s Equity and Inclusion Office define, these bathrooms are free to use no matter one’s gender identity.
Most of the facilities have been placed in the Ann Bourns Building, the Michael DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery and the future Living Learning Centre set to open in 2019, but the majority of the university’s buildings now have at least one all-genders washroom.
“Being able to access safe and accessible washrooms is a human right; however, for campus members who identify as transgender, gender non-binary, two-spirit or who do not conform to strict gender expectations, washrooms are often unsafe places where they may be subjected to verbal and physical harassment,” read part of a statement from the Equity and Inclusion Office.
A second-year non-binary McMaster student who requested to be referred to under the alias of Jay echoed this sentiment.
“I think it is critical to have all-genders washrooms because there are students with non-binary identities, and these students will not feel comfortable in washrooms that are assigned exclusively for men or for women,” they said.
Trailing behind other Canadian universities, such as the University of Toronto, York University and Ryerson University, the decision to implement McMaster’s all-genders washrooms initiative was years in the making.
“I think it is critical to have all-genders washrooms because there are students with non-binary identities, and these students will not feel comfortable in washrooms that are assigned exclusively for men or for women.”
Non-binary McMaster Student
The university’s facilities update is, in part, a product of recent, pro-LGBT legislative changes such as Bill C-16, which included gender identity and gender expression in the list of hate crime sentencing provisions in the Canadian Criminal Code and prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Another more local policy change was the pro-trans rights protocol that Hamilton City Council passed in March 2017.
On campus, the shift for McMaster to adopt all-genders washrooms gained traction when Ehima Osazuwa, the McMaster Students Union President in 2015-2016, ran on a platform that showcased the importance of gender-neutral washrooms on campus.
With financial assistance from McMaster’s work/study program and project funding from the Equity and Inclusion Office and The President’s Advisory Committee on Building an Inclusive Community, trans, gender non-binary and agender students were hired to lead the all-genders washroom Project.
McMaster’s new washrooms are part of a multi-phased initiative aimed at improving trans inclusion on campus.
“[The] Equity and Inclusion Office will be launching an educational campaign for the broader campus community and on-line resource for trans, gender non-binary and Two-Spirit students, staff and faculty members,” said Vilma Rossi, the senior program manager of the Equity Services program at the university’s Equity and Inclusion Office.
“We’ve already started populating the site with information and will continue to do so over the next several weeks as we edit and confirm accuracy of information and contact person.”
As part of the initiative, the university also aspires to renovate the multi-stall bathrooms in the McMaster University Student Centre Atrium into new, multi-user, accessible all-genders washrooms.
“There really, I think, is no excuse for not having washrooms available for trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit students… They should be expected from the university… Being able to change a sign is not a very difficult request,” said Jay.