Friday • 2015.04.10
Pride Toronto Announces Improved Gender-Free Restroom Policy
“Restrooms should be offered gender-free.” Starting in 2015, that is the official rule whenever Pride Toronto’s policies involve restrooms.
Pride has supported gender-free restrooms, as a general practice, for some time: The festival site has always provided non-gendered portable facilities, and Pride routinely de-genders the restrooms at venues hosting official Pride events. However, this is the first time Pride Toronto has officially formalized a comprehensive policy requiring gender-free restrooms wherever possible. The new changes affect Pride Toronto’s office, the grounds during the festival, and extend to include guidelines for Pride’s Affiliate Events.
Restrooms at Pride Toronto’s headquarters have also never been limited or separated by the categories of men and women, and bore no signs at all. New permanent signs have been installed which make it clear that Trans* (including non-binary) persons are explicitly welcome and safe, depicting a toilet ideogram and the label “All-Gender Restroom.” The new permanent signage coincides with Pride moving their office to a new physically accessible location, at 55 Berkeley Street.
The signs also feature embossed braille, high-contrast colour for low-sighted individuals, and a new version of the icon for physical accessibility created by the Accessible Icon Project. The new icon centers the person in the ideogram as an active mobile driver of a wheelchair, an improvement to the old icon which centers the chair itself and depicts the person as passive cargo. Creators of the Accessible Icon Project explain, “As people with disabilities of all kinds—not just chair users—create greater rights and opportunities for social, political, and cultural participation, we think cities should evolve their images of accessibility too.”
Pride says the changes were both thoughtful and deliberate. “We wouldn’t want to give the impression that it’s a ‘trans bathroom,’ because it’s for everybody,” says Jaime Martino, Pride Toronto’s Director of Operations.
As for improved accessibility, in addition to moving their headquarters to an accessible building, Pride also announced at their Annual General Meeting this year that a new budget line item has been added specifically to create a full-time paid staff position for Accessibility Coordinator, a contract position for three months leading up to and including the festival. In years past, accessibility had been handled exclusively by a team of unpaid volunteers.
Pride has also recommitted that street-level portable toilets at the festival, which have never been gendered male and female, will continue to be offered gender-free. But the changes don’t stop there.
Each year, queer-friendly venues wishing to run Pride-branded events may partner with Pride Toronto through the “Affiliate Events” program. Pride provides Affiliate venues with a Best Practices package, which for the first time in 2015 includes the following: “At least one Gender-Free washroom should be available. If all of your washrooms are usually gendered for either men or women, please print off this sign and cover the gender symbols on at least one existing washroom to create an all-gender washroom.”
Affiliates should not be confused with the “Pride Week Partners” program, where for a fee, venues may access branding material that identifies them as a supporter. One other possible benefit from the Partners program is the option to obtain an extended liquor license, allowing beverage alcohol sales until 4 a.m. A representative of Pride Toronto’s Pride Week Partnership Program has stated that the Best Practices materials will be forwarded to Partners as well, however providing a gender-free restroom will not be a requirement to be considered a supporter of Pride Toronto in 2015.
Information on plans for future years is not yet available, but Pride is striving to make the entire festival safer and more inviting to members of the Trans* community. “We want to do more to help the trans community,” said Mathieu Chantelois, Executive Director for Pride Toronto.
The new restroom policy comes on the heels of Pride announcing free advertising and promotion for grassroots Trans* events occurring during Pride month. These and other changes result from an internal policy review, a cooperative process between multiple teams across Pride including the Site team, Affiliate Events team, Trans* Pride team, and guided by input and comments received from the Trans* community by email or through community Town Hall meetings held so far.
“We’re always trying to do outreach to our communities, and we care what they have to say,” said Taylor K. Gesner, Arts & Culture Program Manager for Pride Toronto, and staff liaison for the volunteer Trans* Pride Team.
Luka Sidavarius, Team Lead for Trans* Pride, promises even more is happening thanks to feedback received from communities. “We have more announcements soon, and town hall meetings still to come.”