Free to Pee is flushing bathroom barriers

Free to Pee campaign is aiming to improve access for trans* and gender-queer students and staff

Michelle Pettis, the Student Association's Community Action Centre co-ordinator, during the bathroom audit at Casa Loma campus Photo: Michelle Pettis

Michelle Pettis, the Student Association’s Community Action Centre co-ordinator, during the bathroom audit at Casa Loma campus
Photo: Michelle Pettis

Feeling free to pee is everybody’s right. George Brown College (GBC) students and staff are continuing to be harassed in public bathrooms at the college, and the Free to Pee campaign is hoping to put a stop to it.

According to Marilyn McLean, a community services professor at GBC involved with the campaign, people are harassed on the basis of gender stereotypes and gender presentation.
Individuals who identify as trans* and gender-queer who don’t fit particular gender stereotypes, are denied the right to use the bathroom through harassment, by people who are failing to realize that “bathroom safety is not a luxury or a special right,” according to the Free to Pee webpage.

Conducted for the first time at Casa Loma campus, according to McLean, the bathroom audit involved participants wearing rubber gloves and outlandish outfits, while getting peoples experiences with bathroom use at the college, sharing information, and helping to spread awareness of bathroom saftey.

“The students in my program, the AWCCA (assaulted women and children’s counsellor advocate) program, surveyed all of the bathrooms at St. James campus to look for bathroom access posters that Free to Pee has been putting in the bathrooms,” said McLean. “The students did an assessment to make sure all the posters were posted, and that they were where they were supposed to be.”

Feeling uncomfortable using the public washrooms at GBC is a frustrating experience for anyone, said McLean, who’s also experienced this discomfort more than once, saying that there have been times when security has been called.

“Security has been trained about this,” said McLean who also says people get confused about gender and alert security, when that’s not the right thing to do at all; although it is entirely appropriate to contact security if they are being harassed in the bathroom.

As an alternative to security, people can contact other services from the college if they want more information about gender identity.

“They can check in with the human rights office, and also among the people who have been trained in Positive Space, there are some of us who are additionally involved in Free to Pee,” said McLean. “A lot of us have identified, and have identifying markers on our rainbow banners (through Positive Space training). Any of us who have that on our banner, it means that we are a good person to talk to about bathroom issues.”

The campaign stresses as part of the Free to Pee survey’s introduction, “we stand in solidarity with all those who experience barriers to accessing public washrooms, and together we can push for solutions that meet the needs of our community as a whole,” continuing to help make washrooms safe for everyone.

Michelle Pettis, the Student Association’s Community Action Centre co-ordinator, did not respond to requests to comment by press time.

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Free to Pee is flushing bathroom barriers