Transgender students at SFU hold demonstration calling for gender-neutral washrooms

February 17, 2015

Transgender and gender-variant students at Simon Fraser University are planning a demonstration to draw attention to the need for gender-neutral washrooms on campus. Protesters plan to occupy a men’s washroom and post signs that say, “all genders welcome. This toilet has been liberated from the gender binary.” The demonstrators say that the need for gender-neutral bathrooms is a safety issue. “I don’t think [administrators] realize the actual risk of violence that people face,” said organizer Nathan Lyndsay. An SFU spokesperson said that some residences offer gender-neutral washrooms, but that the university had not yet received a formal, university-wide request for such facilities. She noted that SFU faces physical constraints, particularly in older buildings, that make it difficult to renew existing facilities as gender-neutral spaces. Lyndsay suggested that changing the signage on existing washrooms would be a cost-effective first step. Students at Ryerson University have also been campaigning for more gender-neutral washrooms. Georgia Straight

Postscript: February 17, 2015

Simon Fraser University has issued a statement in response to a planned demonstration calling for more gender-neutral washrooms on campus. In the statement, Tim Rahilly, AVP Student Services, emphasizes SFU's commitment to providing safe, supportive, and respectful spaces for all students, and identifies several steps the institution has taken to provide gender-neutral spaces on its 3 campuses. These include establishing gender-neutral, single-use washrooms that can be locked from the inside and conducting a feasibility study on retrofitting gender-specific group toilets. Rahilly also notes that SFU is moving toward allowing students to use preferred names on student IDs and class lists; he adds that SFU's Human Rights and Equity Office has not received any formal complaints regarding the issue of gender-neutral washrooms. Finally, Rahilly points out that the 3000-level of the Academic Quadrangle, where the protest is scheduled to take place, offers 5 gender-neutral washroom facilities. SFU Statement