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Need for choice: NAIT converts two washrooms to gender-inclusive

In an effort to create an accessible and welcoming campus for all, NAIT is converting two washrooms on the main campus into gender-inclusive facilities. Instead of men’s and women’s washrooms, these will be open to anyone, regardless of gender. The washrooms are located in the basement of H-wing and the main floor of J-wing and are expected to be completed in September and November, respectively. 

Single stall gender-inclusive washrooms are not new to NAIT, but the newly renovated washrooms will be the first multi-stall option available on campus. 

“We [NAIT] have had single-stall gender-inclusive washrooms for many years, but we officially began to label them as gender-inclusive in 2016 with the opening of Feltham Centre. Over the last few years we have been exploring opening multi-stall gender-inclusive washrooms,” said Tim Ira, an equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) specialist at NAIT.  

While choosing what washroom to use may seem simple to some, for others it can be a difficult or emotional choice. 

“When folks are presented with the front door of a washroom, they oftentimes will see something representing a binary gender. Oftentimes an image of a woman or an image of a man. And for some folks, that may not represent their lived experience, or it might not provide them with a choice where they would feel the safest.”  

“For some folks, a washroom can be a place of intense shame, of violence. It can remind folks of some negative or traumatic experiences that they may have had,” explained Ira.  

Providing gender-inclusive washrooms will give choices to students and staff who want them. 

“People need to be able to use washrooms that feel right for them,” said Ira. “It’s really important that NAIT takes steps to create spaces where folks can feel sage to go to the washroom because we all have to use the washroom.” 

But those who prefer a gendered option don’t need to worry—men’s and women’s washrooms aren’t going anywhere.  

“We know in terms of general use that an inclusive washroom will begin to do some of the EDI work that we are hoping to do, such as unsettling the notion of binary gender. At the same time, we also know that we need to preserve some spaces as being gendered, based on comfort levels [and] religious rituals that take place here on campus,” said Ira.  

“There will still be men’s washrooms and women’s washrooms, but there will also be other options here on campus for folks.”  

The office of equity, diversity and inclusion is located within the International and Intercultural Community Centre (IICC) in W101. Ira describes it as “the home away from home for our international students, but it’s also a space where folks can attend workshops, ask questions, and co-learn with other students and staff.” IICC is open Monday to Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Tuesday from 10:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and closed on Fridays.

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