Gender Inclusive Bathrooms Make Their Way to the YMCA and UWT

UWT is planning to install their first official all-gender restrooms. According to the Office of Equity and Diversity, “all of these restrooms are gender inclusivemeaning that regardless of gender identity, anyone can use the restroom.”

The Tacoma campus is following suit after the Seattle campus renovated to include over 30 all-gender bathrooms in the Spring of 2011. The Bothell campus also includes all-gender bathrooms in their Activities and Recreation Center.

The idea behind having all-gender bathrooms started two years ago, when members of the Queer Student Alliance went to a convention in Salt Lake City and one workshop discussed the importance of having gender-inclusive facilities.

After meeting with Sharon Parker, the Assistant Chancellor for Equity and Diversity, and assistant Richard Goetz, they explained the idea behind the all-gender bathrooms. According to Goetz, the term “all-gender” is the term that defines the restrooms, because terms such as “gender neutral” are limiting and do not properly examine all the genders that are welcome to use these restrooms. “Everyone can use them,” Goetz says. Parker adds that they’re “not just for one community.”

Goetz comments on the traditional boy/girl bathroom signs, and says he and Parker are “trying to change that language to find something that’s inclusive.” The all-gender bathrooms will just be single stalls, instead of larger bathrooms, for privacy.

All the signs for these new installations are provided by a company called My Door Sign, which promotes all-gender restrooms. This is important to the company because, as stated on their website, “the restroom is a touchy subject. No one really wants to say ‘toilet’ (or loo, or commode). You just want to know where to go when you gotta go and we get that. All-gender restroom signs alleviate the confusion.” According to Parker, My Door Sign donated some signs and have been helpful to our school in regards to the project.

The Diversity Resource center has attempted to make the campus a safe and friendly environment for LGBTQ students, as a whole. For example, the center promotes the Rainbow Center for all students. The Rainbow Center expands resources and safe space for the entire community. Although the Rainbow Center is not on campus, they are still located in Tacoma and will have their next event, Rainbow Center Late Nights, on Dec. 2nd. For more information, visit rainbowcntr.org.

Not only will the campus itself be undergoing this change to include all-gender bathrooms, the YMCA’s of Pierce and Kitsap counties also made a few changes. According to their website, “the YMCA created a policy to demonstrate our commitment to the transgender community” in April of this year. It states that transgender members can use the locker room aligned with their part of the transition. Meaning that if they are transitioning to male, to use male locker rooms, and the same applies to those transitioning to female.

Although the Y Center’s intention was to be inclusive of all people, many members did not like the policy and took to Facebook to complain. One complaint was that women with kids did not want their children to shower with transgender members. With over 1,000 complaints about the new policy, Bob Ecklund, the CEO of the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap counties, issued a new policy.

The new rules were issued on Oct. 5th of this year. At all Family Y’s in Pierce and Kitsap counties, transgender members will have to use private locker and shower rooms. In adult facilities, such as the Student Y Center on campus, transgender members may use locker rooms that align with their gender identification.

Ecklund wrote a formal letter published on their website about the change: “While diversity enriches and improves us, it sometimes includes the unfamiliar, which we will navigate using our four core values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility.”

Because all Washington YMCA centers are non-for-profit, they are required to comply with all laws and regulations of Washington State. According to Ecklund, “Washington State recognizes transgender rights and prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which includes gender identity.”

If you want to be a part of the policy discussion, the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap counties want to hear from you. They encourage everyone to send questions, comments, and concerns to president@ymcakpc.org. “The YMCA exists to serve you,” says Ecklund, “and we want to ensure your voice is heard…the Y’s leadership team is committed to finding a solution that we believe best represents the diverse population we serve.”

UWT is planning to finalize and finish installing the all-gender bathrooms around campus this year.

Courtesy of UW Tacoma

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