Manitoba

More transgender bathrooms pop up in Winnipeg

It seems many Winnipeg establishments are ahead of the curve for respecting the rights of LGBT people — at least when it comes to using the loo.

'I think it's important that everybody feels safe and welcome,' says owner of Oh Doughnuts

Theo DeSilva said he has faced discrimination using the men's washroom in the past. (CBC)

It seems many Winnipeg establishments are ahead of the curve for respecting the rights of LGBT people — at least when it comes to using the loo.

On Tuesday the federal Liberals are expected to propose legislation that will give legal and human rights protection to transgender people, following through on a pledge made during the election campaign.

Already though, a handful of establishments in Winnipeg offer a gender-neutral bathroom option for transgender people.

The transgender washroom sign inside Oh Doughnuts on Broadway in Winnipeg. (CBC)
The University of Winnipeg was one of the first places in Winnipeg to offer gender-neutral washrooms but in 2016 it's hardly unique.

Newly-opened Oh Doughnuts on Broadway in Winnipeg offers one as does the Tallest Poppy on Sherbrook Street, The Good Will on Portage Avenue, the University of Manitoba and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

"I think it's important that everybody feels safe and welcome," said Amanda Kinden, owner of Oh Doughnuts.

Kinden said the decision to offer bathrooms for people who may not feel comfortable in conventional male or female washrooms was an easy decision.

"We are all human. We're different. We should embrace the differences we have and allow people to feel comfortable about them," Kinden said.

Winnipegger Theo DeSilva is the LGBTTQ* representative for the University of Manitoba Students' Union and said he's encountered verbal abuse using washrooms in the past.

"If we really think about it, the washrooms we use in our house aren't gendered, the [portable toilets] at folk fest aren't gendered. Red River Ex, not gendered. Why are we making this a bigger issue than it has to be?" DeSilva said. "I think there are people who will benefit and I don't think this is going to hurt anyone in the long run. It's just going to give people inclusive access to washrooms. 

"A gender inclusive washroom shouldn't just include gender inclusive toilets, but it should include a change table, resources for people with accessibility needs. It's going to be a washroom where people whose voices have been silenced are going to be finally heard."

Transgender woman Trish McNorgan said she's had no issues finding safe washroom spaces in Winnipeg but she worries about a potential backlash to the trend.

Trish McNorgan said she has not faced a problem finding a safe washroom in Winnipeg. (CBC)
In the United States, North Carolina recently passed a law restricting transgender people to using the public restrooms for the gender listed on their birth certificates.

McNorgan worries about what the U.S. Attorney General called "state-sponsored discrimination" could spread here, despite the Liberals's efforts.

"Were such a much more tolerant society than those pockets of those states where there is difficulty it's a concern that it could be exported here," said McNorgan.

Talia Syrie, co-owner of Tallest Poppy, said some customers have raised questions about the restaurant's washroom.

"People are confused by it they don't understand. But when we explain it to them they are generally fine with it, some people are really, really happy about it," she said.

Corrections

  • North Carolina passed a law restricting restroom use by transgender people. An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated South Carolina passed the law.
    May 17, 2016 11:07 AM CT

with files from Courtney Rutherford and the Associated Press

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