Ari Tantos in the four-corner gender-neutral washrooms in A-building. Photo credit: Blaire Waddell

Algonquin College has introduced gender-neutral bathrooms in the P-building and E-building, as well as the four-corner washroom in the A-building.

The four-corner washroom in A-building has 12 singular washrooms, two accessible washrooms, and a washroom with a nursing/changing table. The renovation of the E-building universal washroom, E127, has been updated to the most current accessibility code requirements. The college has also added a universal washroom in P-building, P109, by expanding the existing washroom.

Ziyu Qiao, a student in the early childhood education program, believes the new washrooms reduce people’s sense of security.

“I think there is no privacy. If I come out from the bathroom and see a lot of males standing at the entrance, I feel uncomfortable,” said Qiao.

On the other hand, Ari Tantos, a television broadcasting and streaming media student, feels that having these washrooms is a good step toward gender inclusivity.

“Gender-neutral washrooms are a good step towards gender inclusivity in terms of having a public space where queer people can exist and not feel restricted as to what their gender identity is,” said Tantos.

With these washrooms being introduced to the campus, Tantos is concerned that they will be used for the wrong reasons.

“I think the manner in which the four-corner washroom is made with a bunch of individual bathrooms, it is streamlined and it is created for total privacy and is very helpful,” said Tantos. “In another way, it opens up a whole other door for the bathrooms to be misused and in high school, the handicapped washrooms would be used for vaping and other things.”

Confederation College, located in Thunder Bay, has been working to improve access to facilities across Canada. According to Confederation College, 47 per cent of post-secondary students in Canada witness or experience discrimination due to their gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. This leads to students not feeling safe on campus and not attending school.

A first-year film and media production student at Algonquin College, Lauren Pare, feels it’s is a step in the right direction.

“I feel like it is a great way to make people comfortable in their skin, but I also know that many people have mixed emotions about them just because of being vulnerable with the other gender,” Pare said. “In terms of inclusivity, it’s not an issue that I have ever faced before, so if it makes people feel more comfortable and who they are, I say go for it.”

Algonquin College says gender-neutral washrooms will soon be available in other buildings across campus, starting with J-building.