Laurentian University's new bathrooms break down gender barriers

There is a new policy of one-bathroom-for-all at Laurentian University in Sudbury. They are called gender-neutral washrooms — meaning anyone can use them.

The stick woman in the triangle skirt is gone with a new one-bathroom-for-all policy at Laurentian University

Washrooms in new parts of Laurentian University are open to all. (Jen Johnson)

There is a new policy of one-bathroom-for-all at Laurentian University in Sudbury. They are called gender-neutral washrooms — meaning anyone can use them.

The hope is that transgender people, or those who don't identify as one particular gender, feel safe in a public washroom.

There are currently a handful of single-person, gender-neutral bathrooms, said LU's Francophone Affairs spokesperson Stephen Roberge. He also sits on the sexuality and gender diversity committee at the university.

At this point, none of the washrooms are a shared-stall model, he said, although a design is in the works.

The response has been positive for the most part, he said, noting some people need a bit more time to adjust to the new concept.

"I don't see the big deal, but to some people it's just a big issue, said Roberge.

An associate professor of Women's Studies at Thorneloe University said a person in gender transition, or someone who doesn't identify as either one of two genders, often gets harassed in a bathroom reserved exclusively for men or women.
Jen Johnson is the co-chair of the sexuality and gender diversity committee and an assistant professor in women's studies. (Jason Turnbull/CBC)

"People might question their gender identity which is a source of violence, anxiety and a really negative experience for a lot of trans people," said Jen Johnson, who is also the co-chair of the sexuality and gender diversity committee.

"It will be a safer space for all, to open up the bathrooms to everyone," she said.

"It's statistically shown that this is one of the main sources of anxiety, the Trans Pulse survey in 2010, had lots of data on this," said Johnson.

"This is one of the main sources of anxiety for a lot of trans people in using public spaces."

Any new construction at the University will automatically come with gender-neutral washrooms, including multi-stall models. The ones that are currently split by gender will stay that way. 


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