Gender-neutral washrooms, sensitivity training planned for Humber

by | Mar 27, 2015 | Life

Shaun Fitl
Life Reporter

Humber is the first college in Ontario to develop a gender diversity policy.

The policy, announced March 17, aims to be consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code and to protect gender identity and expression.

“They are working towards gender-neutral bathrooms and to make the school trans-inclusive,” said Mikki Decker, a vice president-elect of student affairs at Humber.

“There have been conversations about ways to educate both the students and the staff on campus… there could be a training program in the works that students and staff can participate in,” said Decker.

The training would be based on safe spaces and connecting students, she said.

The LGBTQ community has been active in decision and policy making and has been doing focus groups to increase their voice in the overall gender diversity policy, said Decker.

“When we’re talking about gender identity we’re talking about if one identifies as male, female or other,” said University of Guelph-Humber psychology professor Daniel Andreae.

“There is a debate about whether (gender) is partly genetically based or socially constructed… it would depend on the culture, your environment and how you’re reinforced,” he said.

In today’s society if someone deviates from the norm they may frighten people or feel isolated if people cannot relate to them, said Andreae.

Humber’s gender diversity policy plans to manage this societal condition to help a marginalized population within its walls, said Decker.

“We very often act in a binary way and make things very black and white,” said Andreae.

“That is partly because cognitively we end up trying to simplify things as much as possible to make quick decisions and save brain space,” he said.

It’s not just a question of sexuality or gender but almost anything, said Andreae.

“If Humber participated in gender-neutral washrooms we would as an institution be catering to a marginalized population,” said Decker.

“Further education is extremely important to many people… it makes the student experience for many a more comfortable and safe one,” she said.

Right now, the gender-neutral washrooms are planned to be single-use but there may be a future of general gender-neutral washrooms for Humber, said Decker.