A motion has passed at Regent’s Park College to reverse the conversion of the only gender-neutral toilets on site into a male and disabled toilet.
The change comes following what certain members of the JCR called a “disappointing” decision by the college administration to make these toilets available only to male and disabled students over the Christmas holidays, which was not discussed with the undergraduate student body.
There was particular concern that the sign on the door discouraged disabled women from using the toilet, especially as it is the only disabled toilet in that area of the College.
Regent’s Gender and Sexuality Representative Will Tomsett told Cherwell that the initial decision by the college authorities was the result of a complaint by a male member of cleaning staff, who felt uncomfortable cleaning the unisex toilets whilst women were using them.
Tomsett, who proposed the motion, underlined the importance of gender-neutral toilets to the ‘welcoming and accepting body’ of the college.
He also underlined how they planned to tackle the issue that had caused the conversion in the first place, telling Cherwell, “At the meeting we discussed putting up a sign saying ‘These toilets are cleaned by male members of staff’, which would hopefully negate the awkwardness felt by the member of staff upon encountering women users of the facilities.”
The Welfare officer at Regent’s Park, Isobel Wilson, likewise expressed her satisfaction with the decision of the JCR, commenting, “Regent’s prides itself on its supportive and inclusive community, but to be so it is fundamental that we have a safe space for every member and guest of the college.”
“The toilets, which service the college hall, are deemed particularly important with the consideration of transgender guests who may be visiting the college for Formal Hall, as well as providing a safe space for any students of the college who are unsure or undecided of their gender.”
She went on to explain that she is now confident that the SCR will listen to the concerns of the undergraduate body over the issue and will reinstall the gender-neutral toilet with immediate effect.
JCR president Alex Rennison issued the following statement, “The reinstatement of the toilets as a gender neutral space will of course be a change for the better, with the JCR feeling strongly that a reversion to gender-binary use would be a step back for a community that prides itself on being welcoming to all students and guests alike.”
The motion could prove an important step to raising the awareness of the matters of sexuality across the university. Regent’s Gender and Sexuality Representative has expressed his hope that the decision acts as a stimulus for change and discussion.
He commented, “I’d like to see unisex toilets provided in other colleges as all too often it is easy to ignore the real issues that trans people are confronted with in the simple act of going to the toilet.”
“I welcome the recent survey conducted of college LGBTQ reps across the University relating to the provision of gender neutral toilets in colleges; creating a safe space for trans students and guests is a really important priority for JCRs to have, and I’m glad to see that this is being discussed across Oxford.”
An additional motion to turn the women-only toilets into gender-neutral toilets has also been proposed, but was yesterday rejected at the general meeting with the support of Tomsett.
Tomsett added, “I believe that to do so would be removing a safe space for female guests, as well as the fact that a number of female members of staff use these toilets to change into their work clothes at the start of the day.”
Second year English student Morgan Harries told Cherwell,“I am really glad that the JCR managed to pass the motion, especially as we were not consulted on the change in the first place. These gender-neutral toilets prove our our college’s attitude of acceptance and its inclusive environment.”