The city says the public seems to be misunderstanding what the new gender-inclusive policy for washrooms at city facilities will look like “on the ground.”
Dave Morris, general manager of facilities and supplies management for the City of Campbell River, says the commentary online following the Campbell River Mirror’s story about the new policy, made him want “to clarify what we’re trying to do here.”
Morris says while the Mirror story was accurate, people seemed to misunderstand what was being stated in the policy, based on what he was seeing in people’s reactions online.
“In reading some of the commentary, it appears as though (some people) are drawing the conclusion that there will be free access that doesn’t exist today and there will be males going into women’s washrooms. That’s not what’s going to happen here. It’s not a free-for-all.”
While much of the online commentary did, in fact, reflect that many people understood what was being proposed, others clearly thought everyone could just go in whatever door they want, no matter what signage exists.
Instead, Morris says, the city will be making some of the washroom spaces currently available in city owned or operated facilities into gender-neutral ones. There will still be men’s and women’s washrooms, there just won’t be only those.
“Some folks that are chiming in are taking a different tack, which is unfortunate, because what it’s intended to do is make our facilities inclusive, not to provide free access to other-gender washrooms – it’s to provide additional services.
“What it will look like is much like my washroom at my home,” Morris continues. “It’s single-use, non-gender specific. We’re introducing that amenity in our public facilities so that we’re not being judgmental towards folks and they can have the safety of a non-labeled washroom to access, similar to what we have in our homes.
“I think people are assuming something other than what is intended.”
While it won’t just be “a free-for-all,” Morris says, what the exact changes will end up being will vary from facility to facility. In some facilities, new areas may be created by separating off certain sections of the current washroom amenities, while in others it may be making some – but not all – of the currently-available washrooms facilities into “gender neutral” ones and placing a locking mechanism on the door.
“Here in City Hall, for example,” Morris says, “I think we’ve got eight washrooms, and in most cases, they’re two-person use. So what we’ve done is taken a couple of those and made them like you would find on an airplane. They’ve got a lock on them that says ‘occupied’ or ‘vacant’ and now they’re single-use and non-gender-specific. Where we can do things like that, we’ll do that.”
North Island Pride, a Campbell River-based organization working to support the LGBTQ+ community and promote inclusion within the community as a whole, issued a statement following the announcement, saying they are “thrilled” with the move.
“The City of Campbell River’s decision to implement gender-neutral washrooms in all city owned and operated facilities,” the statement from the board of directors reads, “is a huge step forward, not only for our local LGBTQ+ community members, but Campbell River as a whole.
“Washrooms are an important public service and directly affect the experience of community members and those visiting our community. The adoption of this policy by the city sends a powerful message of acceptance. Gender-neutral washrooms benefit everyone, and the city’s commitment to implement them demonstrates that Campbell River is a community that embraces inclusion and supports its diverse population.”