UPEI considering gender-neutral washrooms

Jim Day
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UPEI student union approves policy statement requesting gender-neutral washrooms in every university building

UPEI student union president Anastasia Smallwood

The University of Prince Edward Island appears ready to address a call for gender-neutral washrooms on campus.

A spokeswoman says UPEI has been looking into the issue since November and will report on its findings and intended direction next week.

The university believes a satisfactory solution may just be a matter of changing the designation of some existing washrooms, according to the spokeswoman.

On Sunday, the UPEI student union adopted a policy to call on the university to provide at least one gender-neutral washroom in each university building. Further, the policy statement aims to ensure that construction of future university buildings take into account the need for gender-neutral washroom facilities.

Student union president Anastasia Smallwood says there is no need for renovating washrooms or creating new washrooms in the current buildings on campus.

“I don’t think it will be a high-cost venture,’’ she says.

Smallwood says students who may be transgender, or those who may not identify with a certain gender, can face undue anxiety or outright harassment when attempting to use washrooms which are gender specific.

“Ensuring students do not face harassment, alienation, or anxiety on university property is extremely important to the UPEISU,’’ she says.

“Council passing this policy ensures it is a priority for the student union and advocating for the availability of these washrooms is something we will continue working on.’’

“Our next steps will be to engage with university administration on the issue,’’ she adds, “and it is our hope that we can see improvements as quickly as possible.’’

Organizations: University of Prince Edward Island, UPEI student union, UPEISU council

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Recent comments

  • Head Shaker
    January 30, 2014 - 18:34

    Folks,\n 1- If you aren't at UPEI, why do you care? \n\n 2-If you are at UPEI, do what you want. \n\n 3- Things are complex in the real world. You can take concrete action on one thing and yet accept that other issues exist and need to be addressed as well without compromising one's position \n\n 4- What goes around, comes around. If you tell others that you don't take them seriously unless they provide adequate proof, don't expect for them to take you seriously without providing an equal amount of proof. \n\n 5- Saying that you are right is not an argument. Being sure you are right is not proof. \n\n 6- If you tell women that their concerns over sexual assault are unfounded, you are essentially saying 'Go away! Come back when someone actually assaults you and if you can prove it was related, then I may reconsider.' \n\n

  • Just sayin
    January 30, 2014 - 01:19

    Section 28 says the rights and freedoms are guaranteed equally to male and female persons. Male and female refers to biological sex, not gender. I have not seen any evidence to make me believe that the concerns about rape are legitimate.

    • rukidding
      January 30, 2014 - 11:38

      Then why should I consider the points you suggest in favour of your issue are legitimate, rather than just your personal preference? You seem to dismiss any view except yours, yet there is the expectation that you should be taken seriously because it sorta makes sense. Can you cite studies? Have they been replicated? Have they been peer-reviewed? Are the results statistically significant, in a technical way not in how the data speaks to you? Are they published publicly, or does one need a subscription to access them? The fact that is even got brought up, is something that requires some response other than dismissal I assume you are a UPEI student. You must be familiar with basic research techniques, and how to present the data in a convincing argument to back up your view other than " It doesn't change that I'm right. "

    • actually
      January 30, 2014 - 11:57

      The text does not make that distinction. If that was true, then you are trying to make the washrooms sexless as they are divided by biological sex. There seems to be some equivocation on sex vs gender going on. Is the request to make them sexless or genderless? If it is gender related, does than not take sec 28 out of the picture, according to your stated interpretation? If it is sex, does that not make it a purely biological issue, and not a gender one as you have separated them?

    • confused
      January 30, 2014 - 13:41

      I'm confused. Are the washrooms segregated by sex or by gender?

    • Who are you
      January 30, 2014 - 15:57

      Who are you to tell others if their concerns are not legitimate?

    • Just sayin
      January 30, 2014 - 18:32

      The point I was trying to make was that section 15 states that sexes are equal, and 28 ensures that people have equal claim to the rights in the charter, regardless of biological sex. I cannot find anything beyond opinion and anecdotes to suggest that segregating bathrooms by sex and/or gender has a clear relationship to sexual assault or that assaults are any more or less likely to occur in public bathrooms in the first place. There are plenty of instances where women have been assaulted in public restrooms, but it was not because of there gender. More likely it was because they were alone. I have a very hard time believing that the gendered stick figures are the only thing preventing assault in bathrooms. Sexual violence is an issue that affects every gender. Trans and non-conforming individuals are significantly more likely to be sexually assaulted than cisgendered people (Clements et al. 1998). Trans assault victims are also frequently subject to harassment by police Given what is known about patterns of sexual assault, I cannot see any convincing argument in favour of segregated washrooms. More to the point, I can't see any convincing argument against have gender neutral ones.

    • Just sayin
      January 30, 2014 - 19:43

      I only mean that their concerns are not legitimate *in this context*. As a separate issue concerns over sexual assault are very serious, but not as it relates to gender-neutral washrooms.

    • Confused
      January 30, 2014 - 20:12

      Actually you brought up the charter to slam a Christian (I assume) lady to show that the charter mandated political correctness, and didn't bring up section 15 until 28 was posted and asked whether that was the one you meant. To claim now that that you meant to use both sections as a combined argument for sexual equality seems a bit disingenuous. The lateness of presenting anything to support your case would seem to indicate that your goal was to use moral outrage as an attempt to show that what you were advocating could be justified purely on the grounds of political correctness, which was probably seen as having sufficient moral force that no "justified" argument could ever be raised. Regardless, the issue at hand has little chance of not being accepted without some over-riding financial issue which may be solved by relinquishing some other request to free the funds. It would be interesting to see whether it happens because of this campaign or in spite of it.

    • confused
      January 30, 2014 - 22:10

      That would sound more heartfelt if there were not multiple unheeded responses, previously, suggesting that it would cause fewer issues to phrase it in such a way. If that had been how the response was originally presented, it might have save a lot of aggravation rather than seeming to have been hand waved dismissively. I think this may be an object lesson on how poorly considered responses can cause offense to those who take such responses as given. This is why public spokespeople are trained as such and do not make public statements unless crafted to get the appropriate response, and rarely just speak off the cuff.

  • Ally
    January 29, 2014 - 07:03

    To Shirley Gunn... While I agree and disagree with different parts of your comment, there actually is an entire building at UPEI dedicated to prayer. It is called the Chaplaincy Center, and that is where the UPEI pastor has Sunday mass, it is where students can be with God at any time... But you know what? In this building, there is also a room for Buddhists, Islamics, and Muslims!!! Because it is very important to be able to offer up at least ONE thing to make a minority feel at home and comfortable! And in my high school, there was a prayer club too.. :)

    • Island Atheist
      January 29, 2014 - 11:43

      Are you saying Christ followers are a minority, or that they should be happy they get someplace they are allowed to their token and should be happy and shut up, (like whites, nerds, and women)?

    • Island Atheist
      January 30, 2014 - 12:00

      What is the difference between an Islamic and a Muslim?

  • K G
    January 29, 2014 - 00:05

    In my opinion, UPEI putting in gender neutral washrooms is comparable to a family in a third world country with no running water buying a year's worth of satellite television. This is definitely a real issue that a small grouping of people faces at the university, however the school should be spending its time working on ways to better itself in the areas that are more pertinent to more people. Quality classroom environment would be a good start.

  • Shirley gunn.
    January 28, 2014 - 19:28

    What is the world coming to......just how far does our education system have to go to have every minority happy. Before you jump at what I said...... Everyone has a life choice but all of society does not have to "politically" correct. How about having a Christian prayer room for those who wish to use it.? Just mention the word. God and faith in Jesus Christ and many will be shunned at upei. Go figure. Leave the washrooms alone and concentrate on the bigger picture..... "Education" who would've thunk? Have a great day....

    • Just saying
      January 28, 2014 - 23:47

      Society does not have to be politically correct? Section 28 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms might disagree.

    • Just saying
      January 29, 2014 - 00:45

      We are not a gender-neutral society; which is the root of the issue. We are however a secular one.

    • wtf
      January 29, 2014 - 07:51

      Appears you don't count as having any importance. You are just a muggle. a mundane. Nothing special about you if you don't have a currently fashionable issue. Even women fearing rape are being dismissed as silly people who need to shut up. The first article had the proponent claiming that since they are in some danger in an all female washroom, making it more acceptable for a male to be there isn't making any more dangerous than it is now, so they have no right to consider it a problem, but an uncomfortable feeling of being singled out as different trumps them and requires immediate action. If a straight male told women to shut up about the whole rape thing, they'd be roasted in the media. In this case, it seems to be sluffed off. Some of us still think fear of rape is not women just being unreasonably anti-transgender.

    • wtf
      January 29, 2014 - 07:52

      Appears you don't count as having any importance. You are just a muggle. a mundane. Nothing special about you if you don't have a currently fashionable issue. Even women fearing rape are being dismissed as silly people who need to shut up. The first article had the proponent claiming that since they are in some danger in an all female washroom, making it more acceptable for a male to be there isn't making any more dangerous than it is now, so they have no right to consider it a problem, but an uncomfortable feeling of being singled out as different trumps them and requires immediate action. If a straight male told women to shut up about the whole rape thing, they'd be roasted in the media. In this case, it seems to be sluffed off. Some of us still think fear of rape is not women just being unreasonably anti-transgender.

    • Just sayin
      January 29, 2014 - 09:28

      Know what else were "fashionable issues"? Slavery, women's suffrage, civil rights, gay rights... See my point? If a straight male told women to shut up about the rape thing, they would be roasted in the media, and rightly so. Rape is a serious issue. However, I have still yet to figure out the relationship you seem to see between rape and transgender women. I'll go comfortably out on a limb and say that (cisgendered) women are just as likely to be assaulted by another cis woman than by a trans woman. Again, if you can prove me wrong, I'm all ears.

    • Island Atheist
      January 29, 2014 - 11:54

      I think the issue is the comments being made by proponents that worries about rape are irrational and of no value. As for your going out on a limb, I'll wager they have a greater danged from a cis-gendered male and your analogy was specifically worded to minimize women's concerns. The original radio interview did have the interviewee state that since a cis-gendered male could barge into a female washroom now, women are not safe and therefore their concerns were unimportant. Some people get a little unhappy. The proper response would be that that is an issue that needs to be dealt with, but not specific to this request rather than dismissal as unimportant. Slavery wasn't an issue of telling people that non-slaves should shut up about their issues because they weren't the right colour for their issues to be of any importance.. For a school that is supposed to be providing a well rounded education, most of what I see is poorly done emotion targeting rhetoric. Does your school not have English composition classes? You need to be able to communicate without alienating people. Stick to the facts. It is when you make it sound like others need to be quite because the important people (ie you) are talking, you have to expect pushback.

    • wtf
      January 29, 2014 - 12:15

      But if a trans gendered person says it, it gets covered up?

    • To Just sayin
      January 29, 2014 - 12:21

      Methinks you didn't even bother to determine what you were against before attacking, and just popped off something emotionally to respond to a straw man. Winning an argument nobody was presenting is not winning, it is delusional. ================================================================ UPEI 101 WRITING STUDIES (cross-listed with English 101) This course offers an introduction to university writing and rhetoric, aimed at the development of clear, critical thinking and an effective prose style.

    • ummmmm
      January 29, 2014 - 14:14

      Section 28 Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons. ================================================================But what if you don't identify as either? Are you sure that is the section you are addressing? Are you claiming political correctness is a binary gender issue? ================================================================Are you sure you do not mean? Section 15 - Equality Rights Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. ================================================================Even then it refers to legislation. I think you need to build a better case, with accurate facts (TrueFacts not GoodFacts), if you want to come off as the one with the right to moral indignation over other's positions.

    • ummmmmm
      January 29, 2014 - 14:35

      I think you will find that outside of implementing policy, people do not have to be politically correct. ================================================================Section 2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (d) freedom of association.

    • Just sayin
      January 29, 2014 - 15:05

      I'm certainly not surprised by the amount of pushback. It doesn't change that I'm right. I respect peoples right to disagree and think differently, but I have only argued with facts. I didn't intend on arguing for arguments sake, or simply to win. My only intention is to defend equal rights and challenge bullying and transphobia; perhaps educating a few people in the process.

    • Just sayin
      January 29, 2014 - 15:09

      If I didn't respond to the straw man- the thought that trans people present a danger to cis people- an unfortunate number of people would continue to believe it.

    • Just Sayin
      January 29, 2014 - 15:54

      As this has to do with facilities policy, Sections 15 and 28 likely both apply. It's my understanding that Section 28 is generally accepted and interpreted as including gender equality. It seems reasonable to expect that gender expression would be covered by 15.

    • wtf
      January 29, 2014 - 19:47

      You did read section 28 before throwing it at people, right? It is NOT saying everyone needs to be politically correct, which you claimed it did. It says that the two genders are to be treated the same. I think you are just throwing stuff out there to sound good, hoping dumb islanders can't read or are too lazy to look stuff up. You respond to someone by pointing to stuff that when called on, you seem to just assume they probably apply, after making it sound like it was a clear refutation of someone who disagreed with Political Correctness being an article of unquestioned faith. As for the strawman, you specifically countered concerns about rape (presumably by a male) by whether cis-gendered or trans-gendered females were more of a threat than the other, in either an obvious attempt (again) for proponents to make those worried look silly, or a complete misunderstanding on what the concern actually was. As for bullying, it seems that if you aren't transgendered, there bullying isn't a problem either. What the heck do they teach you at that school? I can see better argument skills when the Jehovah Witnesses show up.

    • Rusure
      January 29, 2014 - 21:30

      Typical university liberal. Ignore what others ACTUALLY say., and announce they are right so it doesn't matter. A lot of the argument here is not about the washroom, but the secondary comments made by intolerance of others having legitimate problems.

  • Mark
    January 28, 2014 - 19:16

    Ignorance is bliss! Standing and clapping for all comments made by "just saying" Bravo

    • Just sayin
      January 29, 2014 - 09:16

      Prove me wrong.

    • not illiterate
      January 30, 2014 - 16:55

      Argument from Ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam) Definition: Arguments of this form assume that since something has not been proven false, it is therefore true.

  • typical
    January 28, 2014 - 12:07

    Not to be negative about the need, but if this was not a LBGTQ issue, no one would talk about it. ie. If people were treated badly, verbally and physically, for non-sexual reasons it would not be news. Anyone who grew up being considered a nerd or geek or various species of non-jock/cool crowd, knew that verbal abuse was normal and physical abuse was often rampant. I do not have an issue with this proposal, but it is special pleading that somehow other groups are less hassled and can be ignored. I am sure someone will be disgusted that anyone else felt singled out for ridicule, as it is not politically correct.

  • Arya Madsson
    January 28, 2014 - 11:29

    Andy that is gross

  • Targetman
    January 28, 2014 - 08:50

    I have to say some people have too much time on their hands...... A gender neutral washroom? What next? A pet friendly washroom? Demands to put bidets? What about the 'gender neutral' people that don't want to be identified in this way? Is this washroom for 1 person that wants their way? Not much wonder this world is so screwed considering demands like this one. Anyway, I think this is ridiculous.

    • Just sayin
      January 28, 2014 - 09:13

      Equating people asking for equal rights with animals. Stay classy targetman.

    • Elle Joraco
      January 28, 2014 - 09:18

      There are a lot of people who want gender neutral washrooms, not just transgendered people. They're available for EVERYONE to use. I don't see how it's ridiculous to have a place for anyone who needs to use the washroom, to go.

  • Ripvanfunk
    January 28, 2014 - 08:06

    Here's an idea, Remove all gender associations from all bathrooms! Pretty simple, just tear the little "male"/"female" stick figure signs off the doors. Done. Problem solved.

  • Grow up, Islanders
    January 28, 2014 - 06:55

    Reading these comments brings me a great deal of shame for my fellow Islanders. This is not an assault to your rights as either a man or a woman, it is simply a safe place to "go" for those of us who don't fit neatly into one slot or the other. What's being discussed isn't about making ALL bathrooms gender neutral, it's simply about adding ONE bathroom to each building, like a family bathroom that already exist in many of the buildings. Now go back to minding your own "business".

  • Gender Friendly
    January 28, 2014 - 05:47

    Where I work has created a gender friendly washroom, it is by far the dirtiest washroom I have ever encountered. Guys really do pee on the seat.

  • Sandra Boswell
    January 28, 2014 - 00:08

    I think you all have too much time on your hands. How is this supposed to be a good. As a female, I won't know if I am in the bathroom with a male or female. I will be trying to not use a bathroom at UPEI. Surely there are more pressing issues for these student with lots of energy to focus on. Many children and adults suffer with mental and physical illnesses. Perhaps they could help them as they did not "Choose" their mental/physical challenge. Stop giving these weird people a place to vent so they can mix our children up.

    • Just sayin
      January 28, 2014 - 06:46

      Sandra, you will still be able to go to a gendered (female) washroom. There is only going to be one gender-neutral room per building. I'm not even going to try to explain to you how ignorant and offensive the latter part of your comment is, for it would be a waste of breath.

  • thegeneral
    January 28, 2014 - 00:01

    I am one person who will not be using this washroom, or any other at UPEI. Leave it to them to screw up our society even worse than it already is. If it something worthy they would not consider it.

    • Just sayin
      January 28, 2014 - 06:58

      Not to worry, friend. People like you aren't typically found at universities.

  • observer
    January 27, 2014 - 21:54

    What about the transgender people who can't/don't/won't go to UPEI? Why should they have to travel all the way to UPEI to use the bathroom? Why should a transgender person downtown Stratford have to go to UPEI to pee? Clearly we need gender neutral bathrooms in every building in Charlottetown

  • abcd1234
    January 27, 2014 - 16:55

    Yet, we can put money to this even though there are third world countries without washrooms........

  • I P Nightly
    January 27, 2014 - 15:12

    Put a urnal in the womans washroom problam soveled

  • I P Nightly
    January 27, 2014 - 15:09

    Put a urnal in the womans washroom problam soveled

  • Easy A
    January 27, 2014 - 15:04

    Why in the world would anyone need a transgender washroom. Its as simple as putting your hand down the front of your pants. If you grab a hand full then go to the mens washroom, if not then the ladies washroom is likely the spot to go. Use your head admin staff because from what has been said in the past about the finances of UPEI you shouldn't waste a nickel on something so ridiculous.

    • Just sayin
      January 27, 2014 - 15:26

      Let me enlighten you: When someone "grabs a handful and goes to the men's washroom", and they verbally berated and potentially physically threatened by ignorant people- of which perhaps you are familiar- because of their visual presentation, that is why someone would need a gender neutral washroom. Ideally we would not need them, but it is not the case given the prevailing culture that- while present across society- is especially prevalent here on PEI. Satisfied?

    • nitpicker
      January 27, 2014 - 16:47

      @just sayin: I'm not completely satisfied. I would need you to quantify your comments.

    • Just sayin
      January 27, 2014 - 20:58

      The costs will be very minimal. It's simply a matter of changing the signage. At the most it will involve modifying existing stalls. In terms of expenses, this is the very least thing the university has to worry about. It pales in comparison to many of the decisions the administration has made in the past year.

    • To Just sayin
      January 28, 2014 - 11:54

      " they verbally berated and potentially physically threatened by ignorant people" Perfectly straight nerd have the same problem. They don't get special bathroom arrangement, do they?

    • Elle Joraco
      January 28, 2014 - 12:30

      If there weren't jerks (and some of the comments on this article prove that ignorant jerks exist) then we could live in a society where anyone can just go to the washroom. Unfortunately society, especially North American society has some severe issues when it comes to washroom etiquette and therefore the need for gender neutral washrooms exist. In reality I would like to see all bathrooms be gender neutral but I know there are people who would freak out about that. What UPEI probably doesn't know are various washrooms at UPEI that become unofficially "gender neutral" in the evening because people are too lazy/busy to go up/down flights of stairs or to the end of the hallway so they just use the closest one. I have no problems with this. People have this irrational fear of using washrooms with a person of a different gender of their own (Primarily females who are concerned about using a washroom with males, despite the fact your toilet is in its own stall) There's been talk about being sexually assaulted, guess what, if someone is going to sexually assault you, they're going to do it regardless of where you are... and a bathroom is kind of a stupid place since there's always the risk of someone else coming in and breaking up the assault. (Or security which is aplenty at UPEI hearing someone scream). It's an irrational fear, but fine, if you have that fear go use a single stalled washroom or any genderized washrooms. For me, as a female, I'm going into a washroom to pee, I don't really care who else is there to pee.

    • Just sayin
      January 28, 2014 - 15:08

      It's not a fair to compare "straight white nerd" to transgender. Gender, in our society, is considered far more integral to personal identity than secondary labels like nerd.

    • To Elle
      January 28, 2014 - 16:07

      So, if I feel uncomfortable with my apparent gender, I should have a safe place to pee because otherwise I'd feel bad, but if I am afraid of being raped then I am irrational and should just get over it? And you are the tolerant one?

    • wtf
      January 28, 2014 - 20:14

      So others should just shut up about being abused, like the call for women should stop going on about being worried about silly stuff like rape? Abuse is abuse. Fear is fear. You aren't special because you have a particular orientation. It does not give you the right to trivialize other people because they don't have a trendy issue. LBGTQ looking for this does not bother me in any way. Using it to trivialize other people is offensive.

    • Just sayin
      January 29, 2014 - 09:19

      You're right, wtf. Transgender people aren't special, and don't see themselves as special. That's why they are asking for the exact same privileges that you have.

  • Bob Macdonald
    January 27, 2014 - 13:11

    I predict that girls won't actually like sharing the bathroom with boys when they find out they pee on the toilet seat....

    • Just sayin
      January 27, 2014 - 13:42

      You clearly don't understand the article.

  • Vive la difference
    January 27, 2014 - 11:33

    What is the possible hybrid between a pointer and a setter?

  • rob
    January 27, 2014 - 10:58

    this is crazy,a toilet is a toilet pick one and use it...rules in guys washroom,go to urinal stare strait ahead and dont speak,ha, you wont have a prob.

    • Just sayin
      January 27, 2014 - 12:49

      The problem, Rob, is that many people don't respect those rules and cause trouble for others.