2019 marks a watershed moment for inclusion at UTS with 10 all gender bathrooms opening on campus. Launched in March, along with our Trans & Gender Diverse Services Guide, it’s our most recent step in spearheading social change on campus and beyond.
And it underscores our already-strong track record of diversity and inclusion at UTS which includes initiatives like the Ally program (a visible network of people who are allies of staff and students identifying as lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, queer or intersex), our staff-focused Breaking the Binary: gender, sexuality and body diversity training and our PROUD social network for LGBTQAI+ staff.
Dashie Prasad and Erin Graves tell us how the bathrooms have affected them personally and what more UTS can do for the community.
A Bachelor of Computing Science student who has experienced negative in campus bathrooms.
I’ve been harassed in gendered bathrooms in UTS; I’ve had people shout at me and ask intrusive questions around my gender identity. Even in situations where I haven’t been harassed, there are still the looks, the comments, the feeling that I don’t belong. So, I stopped using campus bathrooms. I would just avoid drinking water and use the bathroom when I got home or when I went to lunch.
But since the introduction of the gender-neutral ones, a lot of my anxiety around using campus bathrooms has disappeared. I now know there are spaces made for me, where I won’t be abused or shamed. And that’s a huge relief.
The dysphoria (or anxiety and deep sense of wrongness) that comes from using heavily gendered spaces, like bathrooms, is much easier to deal with when there are gender-neutral ones available. They are a way of saying to LGBTQIA+ people, we know you exist.
Queer inclusion at university is essential. Having visible staff and students that offer support to the trans community signals to students who may be in the closet that you will be accepted. It helps communicate the idea that gender isn't binary or fixed. By normalising the presence of trans and gender-non-conforming people, it improves the acceptance of trans people in university spaces.
Underpinning this with the continued enforcement of anti-discrimination policies will help ensure LGBTQIA+ students feel safer in their everyday college life.
And given the plethora of mental health issues that LGBTQIA+ people are more susceptible to, having that sense of community is critical. If a university environment feels inclusive, this positively impacts students’ mental health and wellbeing.
LGBTQIA+ staff and students should be at the forefront of policy decision-making. For example, administrative tasks like name changes and gender marker changes on student ID and on rolls, emails and UTS systems should be easier.
A university community should acknowledge that we know best about the barriers we face when it comes to accessing spaces. The UTS community can ensure queer staff and students feel comfortable by ensuring that we’re involved in decision-making processes, so we can help shape spaces and systems to be more inclusive for all of us.
A Bachelor of Communication (Social and Political Science) student whose past bathroom experiences on campus have left them feeling uncomfortable and afraid.
Having all gender bathrooms on campus means the world to me!
I’ve had negative experiences using campus bathrooms in the past. For example, I was once wearing lipstick and walked into one of the men's toilets where I could see a guy gesturing to his friend to look at me, so I walked out to use another facility. This incident made me realise that the threat of violence that comes with being visibly queer is something that still exists.
But the bathrooms are safe spaces where I can be me without having to discuss my identity or body, and that makes me feel much more comfortable.
UTS talks about being for everyone, so having gender-neutral bathrooms is a significant step forward in showing support for our trans and gender-diverse community.
We’re lucky that we go to a young university that supports us and has quite progressive models. The introduction of things like the Ally program and training, the Mardi Gras float, The Transgender Day of Remembrance activities, the LGBTQAI+ project officer and now these bathrooms and the transition guide for staff and students are all important support signals for our community. And while there have been times in the past when the university hasn’t done the best by us, they’ve always been willing to listen, learn and take advice from students and then put it into action.
Of course, I’d love to see the university go a step further by providing more accessible gender affirmation procedures, like supporting LGBTQAI+ students who do community work with a scholarships program.
College life can be challenging for anyone, but for students struggling with gender identity it can be particularly tough. I want them to know, though, that they’re not alone and there is help available. The UTS Queer Collective is a student-run safe space that hosts regular events, as well as advocating for the welfare of queer students.
For further information about the all gender bathrooms including their campus locations, visit uts.ac/allgenderbathrooms
You can also read the Trans & Gender Diverse Services Guide online at uts.edu.au/tgdguide
Support services for students and staff identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer, and those questioning their sexual or gender identity include:
Equity and Diversity Unit
UTS Counselling Service
The Ally program
The Queer Collective
PROUD social network