Planting the seed for gender-neutral washrooms

Current LGBTQ representative says goodbye, leaving the fight for the next in line

Megan Graham, LGBTQ representative, took on the TRUSU position in late October of 2014. With her short run as LGBTQ rep coming to an end in less than a month, the pride awareness week served as more than her first and last big project at TRU, but as an introduction to gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.

“I had heard little bits and pieces about it from the other, surprisingly present trans community here in Kamloops and on campus, who don’t fit in that binary male/female washroom kind of thing,” Graham said. “So one of the things I wanted to tackle was [that] we need to have this conversation, we need to start talking about gender-neutral washrooms.”

For Graham, this is a concept “every other university has,” and seemed like an easy transformation for the bathroom stalls already in most of the bathrooms on campus.

Graham proposed gender-neutral washrooms to TRUSU in conjunction with an information event, hoping for the possibility of a trial run for the washrooms with information on why they are important. According to Graham, this was met with hesitation by the committee, as there were several other factors to consider.

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Artwork by Rae Imeson

“So in my brain I am just piecing together all of the problem solving,” Graham said. “And not considering the attitudes of people on campus, the policies, the fact that that the washrooms were just upgraded, and so maybe [TRUSU] doesn’t want to do it right away.”

As a result, pride awareness week served to inform TRU students on non-binary gender and sexuality.

“It was a compromise and a goal,” Graham said. “The people working with TRUSU are really supportive, but may not fully understand all of these pieces, but that’s what my job is.”

Graham looks at her position as an advocate for an invisible population – including students who aren’t outright vocal about their sexual orientation.

“You’re advocating for them and supporting them as a group and then you have to deal with the entirety of the rest of the campus in trying to get [students] understanding why it’s important.”

Looking into the future, the newly elected LGBTQ representative Julian Simpson, who begins his position in May, plans on picking up where Graham has left off.

“When Megan first introduced the idea I was simply amazed and astounded by it,” Simpson said. “It’s something I myself struggle with, being a two-spirited person who doesn’t always fit into the male/female box.”

Simpson believes that another pride awareness week should take place at the beginning of the year to ensure information is again provided for students. For Simpson, he agrees with having a trial on gender-neutral bathrooms, specifically the bathrooms by the TRUSU desk for reasons of safety.

“There’s a lot of fear and speculation from the people I’ve talked to – a lot of heterosexual women – they’re scared of having gender-neutral washrooms just because of their safety,” Simpson said. “Gender-neutral bathrooms should be near a place where help is easily accessible.”

For Simpson, gender-neutral washrooms are going to be a top priority as well as re-introducing the rainbow crosswalk with longer lasting paint and pushing for a pride parade during both semesters. Similarly, Simpson plans on introducing a transsexual remembrance day for November 2015 to campus.

“I want to hit the ground running with this. We have this energy, we have this media response right now and a lot of people are talking about it,” Simpson said. “It’s our time now and we need to take action now. We need to keep this ball rolling and moving.

“I’m not going to let this fall to the wayside. This is a major thing. I myself would love a gender-neutral washroom so I’m fighting for myself and for everyone else who wants one too.”

Art by Rae Imeson