Students and faculty gathered in Needles Hall on Oct. 20 for the unveiling of the new gender-neutral washrooms to be opened on campus. The new facilities will be single-use and over a dozen of the newly-retrofitted commodes will be barrier-free and include a changing table station. The rest of the washrooms are still single-use and inclusive, however there are some on campus that cannot be classified as barrier-free.

Ayden Scheim, a PhD candidate at Western and Pierre Elliot Trudeau Scholar in bio statistics and epidemiology, provided an address at the meeting. His current work focuses on the social determinants of access to health care for sexual and gender minorities.

The initiative was undertaken by the Equity Office on campus, with the help of Glow and The Working Group on Sexual and Gender Diversity. The complete action plan is divided into four stages with the final stage to be completed by 2018. The unveiling of the retrofitted washrooms, along with educating the public about their presence and benefits, is only the third phase of a four-stage process, which the Equity Office plans to have fully completed by 2018. Future plans include opening more inclusive washrooms, as well as implementing more features like bidet showers.

Beck Mallozzi is the social media and communications director for Glow on campus. Mallozzi addressed the audience at the event and spoke with Imprint about the value of this initiative.

“There are a lot of people on campus who don’t feel safe using public washrooms. There are people who don’t identify as male or female, or even if they do, they might still feel uncomfortable or ‘other-ized’. The multiple individual stalls in typical washrooms really create that feeling,” Mallozzi said. “People don’t realize how important this is, since it’s something we do every day. But there are some people who have to worry about walking across campus to access a washroom they feel comfortable in. There’s a large population of people who don’t feel comfortable using the traditional bathrooms, for a variety of reasons. It’s so important that everyone on campus feels safe, even when they’re doing basic everyday things like using a bathroom.”

Students interested in locating and using the new facilities or who wish to find out more about the upcoming steps in the initiative are encouraged to visit www.feds.ca/glow/gender-neutral-washroom-map/ or stop by the Glow office located in SLC 2101 to pick up a hard copy of the map.