Guerilla Gender Neutrality

he EV Building gets DIY Gender- Neutral Bathrooms

  • Photo by Riley Sparks

Before Thanksgiving weekend, 12 single-person bathrooms on each floor of the EV building were quietly “gender neutralized” by a guerilla sign maker.

Covering the traditionally sex-separated bathroom signs with a more androgynous model, the neutralizer—who spoke with The Link on conditions of anonymity—said the move was to draw attention to Concordia’s failed implementation to provide bathrooms and other safe space for queer and transgendered students on campus.
The person involved said that they “just don’t see why it hasn’t been done in every building,” explaining that the gesture was as simple as changing a mark on the door, but students shouldn’t have to go out of pocket to pay for signage of the space.

“I find it shocking to be in a school that has one of the most renowned gender studies and women’s studies institutions in Canada, yet none of that knowledge has spread throughout the university.”

The gender-neutral bathroom dispute began back in 2005, when the then-executives of the Concordia Student Union promised their implementation across both campuses.

Prior to this, McGill University had successfully executed a similar student initiative for “barrier free” washrooms on the first floor of the Shatner Building, which would also be wheelchair accessible. The project was developed and fully realized in 2004.

By April 2008, Concordia VP University Affairs Shandell Jack announced that one-person, gender-neutral washrooms would be in operation on campus by October of that year. A year later, Former CSU VP President Keyana Kashfi said the project was underway, but they were still awaiting construction plans from the university.

Most recently, the potential gender-neutral bathroom in the Hall Building—room H692—was sidetracked after asbestos was discovered in the space in 2009, with a cleanup cost of $27,000.

Due to the long weekend, the Concordia administration could not be reached to give an update to The Link about the state of the project.

The few gender-neutral bathrooms available for students are located at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute of women’s and sexuality studies and the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy.

“This bureaucratic back and forth since 2005 is taking far too long,” said the neutralizer. “But I do understand how this is bound up in privilege. If you are cisgendered [someone who has a gender identity that agrees with their socially recognized sex], you don’t have to think about these things every day because you are so used to what society has made accessible to you.

“But in the meantime, I purposely chose the single bathrooms,” the neutralizer continued. “I understand there are some people who don’t recognize that having a trans person in your bathroom isn’t a threat. It’s really not harming anyone and it’s not like I mislabeled a group bathroom.”

How long the signs stay in the EV will also be indicative of Concordia’s trans climate on campus, said the neutralizer.

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 09, published October 12, 2010.

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