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Take the Gender Neutral Bathroom Challenge!

Don't use gendered bathrooms in April

by Shay Enxuga and Jake Feldman

Carol and Jeff Outside the Gender Neutral Good Food Emporium Bathrooms. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Carol and Jeff Outside the Gender Neutral Good Food Emporium Bathrooms. [Photo: Miles Howe]

Have you ever thought about why bathrooms are gendered? Or what it would be like if you could not use gendered bathrooms? Well, we challenge you to not use them for the month of April.

The Gender Neutral Bathroom Challenge is directed towards people who do not deal with anxiety, stress or fear when faced with having gendered bathrooms as the only option, but it is open to whoever wants to participate.

Gendered bathrooms are designated for "men" or "women" by a sign, while gender neutral bathrooms are designated for people of all genders.

This challenge includes not using any gendered multi-stall and single-stall washrooms. That probably means the bathrooms at work, school,  and in libraries, bars, restaurants — everywhere, really.

There are two main purposes to the challenge.

The first is to get people to think about trans inclusion when creating or planning events, inviting people out to public places, etc. Making sure that places you go or plan events at have gender neutral bathrooms is one way of letting trans people know that you know they exist and want them to be a part of whatever it is you are doing. We figured that not being able to go to a gendered bathroom for an entire month was probably the minimum amount of time to hammer that point home.

The second main reason is to inspire people to fight for gender neutral bathrooms who otherwise would not. We are hoping people who participate in the challenge will not simply try to avoid gendered bathrooms and seek out gender inclusive ones, but rather that they will confront gendered bathrooms head on, and demand that they be changed to become gender neutral.

Undertaking this challenge does not make you an “ally” or give you authority to speak about what it is like to be trans or gender variant. The purpose is merely to give people a minute idea of what it is like to navigate a world that is not made for trans people. Participation in this challenge cannot replicate years of feeling unsafe in gendered spaces.

We also want people to recognize that this challenge is meant to highlight one aspect of bathroom accessibility. Bathrooms are created with certain ideas of people’s bodies and needs. Often these don’t include trans people, people with different abilities, people with children, people who use needles, etc. This is oppressive. If you are fighting for accessible washrooms, do not just make them gender neutral; make sure they are physically accessible, make sure they have foot baths, sharps containers, baby changing stations, etc.

The following are supporting actions people can accomplish while they are doing the challenge, and hopefully continue to do once the challenge is done:

  • Talking to the managers of public places about making existing single stall bathrooms more accessible. These spots include: hospitals and health centers, schools, libraries, places of worship, shelters, stadiums, airports, bus terminals, train stations, gas stations, community centers, government buildings, restaurants, cafés, bars, food banks, etc.
  • Talking to people in charge of new buildings being built.
  • If large public places don’t listen to your demands, call again. And again. Ask to make a meeting with someone in charge. If they still don’t listen (listening means making their bathrooms more accessible) hold a rally. Get creative! Remember that you won’t win every battle, and that’s okay. Don’t give up.
  • If you find, or change, a bathroom to be gender neutral, please add it to the safe2pee website. If you change one, send us an e-mail to let us know. We will add it to the working list.
  • If you have the ability to choose the signage for new gender neutral bathrooms, please don’t make them English without any recognizable image. Not everyone speaks English.
  • Send your experiences and bathrooms you have changed from being gendered to gender neutral to gnbchallenge@gmail.com, or paste them on the Facebook event. We will be making a zine on the topic of gendered bathrooms and would like to include people’s experiences of doing the challenge. The submission deadline for the zine is May 15.

Right now it is 11 p.m. on April 3. There are 774 people going to the Facebook event, and hundreds of reblogs on Tumblr. While it is obvious that this challenge has hit a nerve, it is hard to gauge the effects. Consciousness-raising is a hard battle to fight, because its successes cannot really be measured in the short term. This challenge was created within a larger context of trans people, both with us and before us, fighting for safer bathroom conditions and a safer world to exist in. We hope that you join us in that fight.

For more information, refer to:

Our website: gnbc.lostwarren.com

Or Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/209510742488108/


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