Gender-neutral washroom protest sparks non-neutral pushback

Campus News

If you were on Yik Yak on Monday, Feb. 15, you would have thought the UVSS had marched into Mystic Market and declared martial law, judging by the torches and pitchforks.

Take a breath, and you’ll find that wasn’t the case.

In fact, the controversy arose when trans activist and Women’s Centre employee Daphne Shaed and others placed signs on various washroom doors around campus labelling them as gender-neutral, similar to what’s already been implemented in the SUB.

Shaed originally tweeted photos of the signs at approximately 8 a.m.; one tweet read, “@uvss @uvic gender neutral bathrooms! It really is 2016!” Shaed originally did not take credit for the signs, saying they were put in place by UVic.

As the morning went on, students took to Yik Yak to question the need for gender-neutral washrooms in general and call out the UVSS for what some thought was a stunt of their own making.

The Martlet reached out to UVSS Chairperson Brontë Renwick-Shields for comment, who said the UVSS had nothing to do with the signs, but that “we support gender-inclusive washrooms on campus.”

At 12:51 p.m., Shaed tweeted that the signs had been removed — some students on Yik Yak said by campus security — and later took credit for them. A tweet at 2:17 p.m. read, “@uvic @TheMartlet The gender neutral bathrooms were installed by myself and some others. Please stop pretending #uvic has g-n bathrooms!”

Speaking with the Martlet afterwards, Shaed said the signs were put up in the hopes that UVic would take credit and see the need for them around campus — not just the SUB.

UVic currently only has single-occupancy stalls for those who need a gender-neutral washroom on campus, though Shaed — and the UVSS — think the university can do more.

At the board meeting that evening, members passed a motion to push UVic administration towards increasing the number of gender-neutral washrooms on campus. The motion includes writing a letter directly to President Jamie Cassels.

While support for gender-neutral washrooms is strong amongst UVSS directors and advocacy groups, time will tell if the greater student body will support their implementation — or decide to give them a flush.

Update Feb. 17, 2016: Yesterday afternoon, Daphne Shaed tweeted a photo of a student dumping red paint on the Pride crosswalk outside the SUB. The Martlet will have more as this story develops.