People in Edmonton will no longer have to choose between using a washroom for men or women, now that councillors have approved all-gender restrooms in city buildings.
The change comes as gender neutral washrooms are becoming standard in institutions like schools and universities in Edmonton. Just recently MacEwan University, as well as public and catholic school boards, introduced washrooms for people who don't identify as strictly male or female.
Marni Panas worked with MacEwan on its new inclusive washrooms. As a transgender woman, she said she has to think about "the little triangle woman and stick-figure man" every day.
"Transgender people are more likely to experience violence in a washroom than any part of society," she said.
"For people like that it can be very difficult, if not even dangerous, for people to use those facilities."
She described people who don't identify with traditional genders being harassed in washrooms, or even assaulted.
Nearly all city buildings already have single-stall washrooms for people who are disabled or want privacy. Panas asked council to replace the male and female signs on those doors with a simple toilet icon to create a safe restroom for people to use.
"Everybody knows what that means," she said.
Councillors on the community services committee approved the change unanimously after a very short discussion.
"All we're talking about here is just updating some signage, and it makes it more inclusive for everyone," said Coun. Andrew Knack.
Multi-stall washrooms for men and women remain
The city will also include all-gender washrooms in every new facility it builds. Traditional multi-stall washrooms for men and women will still be available as well.
"Having an all-gender washroom as something that's clearly defined tells me that this is a safe space for me, that I'm welcome here, I'm welcome in this facility, I'm welcome in this city," Panas said.
"That's a message that transgender people don't often hear."
Replacing the existing signs will not cost anything, according to Knack. City staff will consult with members of the LGBTQ community before replacing them, which will take three to six months.