Christin Milloy:

Rise up and seize equality

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.

This new signage will adorn the Gender-free restrooms at Pride’s new office headquarters.

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.”

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  1. B Theriault
    Friday, 2015.04.10 at 21:02

    I dream of the day when we can all use the same washroom like grown ups but I have a friend who is in a wheel chair. She was in the Viewing stand at the last Pride Parade there were a bunch of gender free porta-potties right next to the stand but none of them were wheel chair accessible. She had to go to the Ambulance station and get assisted with a bed pan. I suggest that we have at least one unisex wheelchair accessible washroom right beside the wheel chair viewing stand. It just makes sense.

    • Cordelia
      Monday, 2015.04.13 at 20:57

      There are usually wheelchair accessible porta potties on Church near the school. The washrooms in the school are also available to people attending family pride events in the school and I doubt very much any one would give anyone that needs them a hard time.

      Any area that has toilets or porta potties but not wheelchair accessible ones should be required to have a sign (and map) directing people to the nearest one. I hope pride will update their policy to include this (though really it should be the law)

  2. Saturday, 2015.04.11 at 08:24

    Let’s go through this step by step, shall we?

    “Restroom” is American English. “Washroom” is Canadian English.

    Washrooms and dressing rooms are segregated by sex (immutable), not gender. For single-occupant washrooms with locking doors, it is a distinction without a difference to label them “all-gender” (or anything).

    You talk about a “full-time paid staff position for Accessibility Coordinator, a contract position for three months leading up to and including the festival.” I thought you said it was full-time. The job was recently posted and paid $500 a month. Quite the commitment to accessibility.

    What is the cost to the legitimate gay and lesbian community of making “the entire festival safer and more inviting to members of the Trans* community,” who now run the show and are ruthless in attacking anyone who fails to toe that day’s party line?

    • Christin Scarlett Milloy
      Monday, 2015.04.13 at 10:49

      I was wondering when you were going to rear your ugly head on my blog.

      I’m glad you got banned from Xtra, but I’m not going to ban or censor you here: I’m going to respond to you and expose you for what you are, Joe Clark.

      You want to divorce lesbian and gay communities from queer and LGBT activism, because you’re happy with the fact that you’ve been mainstreamed, and it’s fun for you to point at the rest of us and say “freaks!” just as society did to you in decades past. But it is you who are destined to forever be the freak, because your bigotry and your ignorance and your hate are being pushed rapidly outside of that mainstream you’ve enjoyed flaunting at me and my people for so long.

      I pity you.

      For having been bullied and marginalized in your youth as a gay man, you would turn around and repay the universe by turning those same behaviours against other, more marginalized people. You’re like the man who beats his children because his father beat him. You can either break that cycle, or live with the fact that when people see you show up at community meetings, they mutter “oh, its that asshole, Joe Clark.”

      You owe it to us to accept us and fight for our rights, as my trans siblings did before for you. Get a clue and join the twenty-first century, or kindly get off the internet and confine your future criticisms of society to the shouting of slurs at passers-by off your porch, you tired, miserable, hatebag.

    • mystic_eye
      Monday, 2015.04.13 at 21:03

      Washrooms, aka Restrooms, are not segregated by sex nor gender now. For one thing parents bring in children of the opposite sex or gender, as do caregivers of the disabled who are not the same sex and/or gender as the person they are assisting. It’s only when trans people attempt to use them that there’s an issue – that’s bigotry.

      Secondly, basic highschool science would tell you that sex is not binary.

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Christin Milloy