Stalls for All

28 November 2019

The Stalls For All report published by the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Queer department has found a need to change bathroom facilities due to exclusionary tendencies towards trans, intersex and gender diverse staff and students.

Stalls For All is a campaign to promote accessible bathrooms on campus. Lead by UMSU’s Queer Political Action Collective, it draws attention to the lack of all-gender bathrooms on University campuses, especially in Parkville. Andie Moore, UMSU’s Queer Office Bearer (OB), said of the current bathroom situation, “Currently, where are students who aren’t guys or girls meant to go to the toilet? We’ve either got to hold it, or use a disability bathroom. Surely there’s a better way than this.”

The report finds that there is a need for all-gender bathrooms on campus at the University of Melbourne. It starts with trans and intersex experiences on gendered bathrooms, and notes the lack of research on intersex experiences. Complemented by past research, the report explains how trans students have been verbally harassed and received stares for not being in the ‘right bathroom’, leading to anxiety and distress. These students will avoid gendered bathrooms altogether, which may lead to physical health issues such as dehydration and urinary tract infections.

Farrago spoke to one such trans student at the University, Alex McFadden, who said that they avoid bathrooms on campus as much as possible “because I don’t feel comfortable in ‘male’ or ‘female’ toilets.”

“I have previously left campus to use a gender neutral bathroom between classes. The fact that the University has made some of the accessible toilets gender neutral does not help as I feel uncomfortable taking that space from disabled students and staff who need those bathrooms.”

The campaign argues that tackling this issue requires a shift from gendered to all-gender bathrooms to foster greater inclusion and allow trans people to develop their gender identity. Enforcing all-gender bathrooms could take the University’s inclusion initiatives beyond mere gestures and poster campaigns.

This shift requires a re-design of the University bathrooms itself. Moore emphasised the pressing need for change, and said, “The Stalls for All Report laid out a set of recommendations for implementing all-gender bathrooms, which we hope the University adopts and practices, and calls on the administration to ensure every building has at least one all-gender bathroom lobby. It’s high time bathrooms become inclusive places, for people of all genders and sexes.”

For Moore and other students involved in the campaign, creating separate all-gender bathrooms through re-naming already existing universal or disabled bathrooms is unviable. The ideal bathroom is a ‘single space with separation by function’, where people gravitate towards different corners of the room according to the facilities and equipment they require. They would have: a set of floor-to-ceiling stalls with sanitary bins, no gaps under or above stall doors and functioning locks, and shared basins. They would remove “peek-a-boo cracks” to maximize the feeling of security. Bathrooms should also include urinals, clearly labelled and divided by partition. These bathrooms should also be accessible.

The campaign put together a team of researchers to survey how many all-gender bathrooms exist on the Parkville, Southbank and Burnley campuses. Only 19.6 per cent of bathrooms in Parkville are all-gender. Southbank has 40.97 per cent, likely due to the fact that they have recently renovated their buildings, while two thirds of the buildings in Burnley have all gender bathrooms.

Stalls for All calls the University to ensure all buildings have all-gender bathrooms, and ensure the safety of gender diverse students. The University has received the report and is reviewing its recommendations.

McFadden has hopes for reform. “The UMSU Queer department, particularly Andie and Raph, have put a lot of thought and effort into the stalls for all campaign. It has been possible for people to be involved in many different ways. I’m hoping the campaign will get the University to commit to actionable changes across campuses.”

The campaign recently launched a bathroom takeover on 23 October on Level 1 of Union House, trans- forming it to an all-gender bathroom for a day. This story is ongoing.

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