Since 2007, McGill has committed itself to creating a more inclusive campus by building gender-neutral washrooms. As part of this initiative, the current Redpath Library renovations will include the creation of a gender-neutral washroom. Although this is an important step forward, McGill is still far from establishing a gender-inclusive campus.
Gender-neutral washrooms are not explicitly labelled male or female, and therefore do not exclude trans people and those whose gender presentation does not align with the gender binary. In May 2007, the Joint Board-Senate Committee on Equity recommended that every newly constructed building on campus include a gender-neutral washroom. The Committee also recommended modifying single-stall washrooms into gender-neutral ones by changing signs and locks. Yet, many major buildings at McGill including Stewart Biology, James Administration, and the Law Library still don’t have gender-neutral washrooms.
The ability to use the washroom without a second thought, and without fear, discomfort, or the threat of violence, is taken for granted by many people. However, going to the washroom can be a daily struggle for those who are not cisgender or for those whose gender presentation does not conform to the gender binary.
Offering gender-neutral washrooms is one of the most basic steps in supporting trans rights, yet even in this, McGill has been incredibly slow. Converting single-stall washrooms is also not enough. Forcing individuals to choose a single-stall washroom, especially if gendered (men’s and women’s) washrooms are nearby, can mark people as different and even potentially out them as trans.
McGill’s policy on gender-neutral washrooms is a good start, but considering the policy was put in place in 2007, there has been very little progress. Many of the changes are minor and do not require a great deal of effort or resources on the part of the administration. Not providing immediately accessible gender-neutral washrooms is not something to be taken lightly; it exposes people to daily discomfort and the fear of violence. It is McGill’s responsibility to ensure that our campus is a safe space for the community.
—The McGill Daily Editorial Board