Somerville JCR has narrowly voted against the introduction of gender neutral toilets, in part over concerns that women might feel uncomfortable using mixed facilities.
This comes despite LGBTQ+ officers making clear to students that college administration backed the change, and merely required a display of support from JCR members.
Reportedly, an LGBT Entz rep has now been “pressured” into cancelling the planned introduction of gender neutral toilets at an upcoming bop, reportedly under the threat of disciplinary action brought by other students.
The motion was originally proposed by Eilidh Wilson, college LGBTQ+ Officer. She told the meeting it was “important that this college shows recognition of non-binary people and think this should be reflected in buildings and facilities available to people”.
Currently the college bar has no gender neutral toilet, but merely one labelled ‘male’ and one ‘women’.
This is also the case in Flora Anderson Hall and Vaughan building, as well as for the toilets serving the dining hall. Toilets in some college accommodation blocks are already gender neutral.
Were the proposals adopted one toilet would be renamed ‘gender neutral toilet’ while the other would be named ‘gender neutral toilet with urinals’. Other toilets throughout the college would remain gendered.
Several JCR members raised the point that women would feel uncomfortable sharing a public toilet with men, with one stating that this was particularly important to consider as “many women have had experiences of harassment”.
One member’s point was branded potentially “heteronormative” after they claimed that some men would “feel awkward” using the toilet knowing that women could enter at any time.
Others suggested that a gender neutral private room, as opposed to a public toilet, would be preferable. However this reportedly would not be possible as it would necessitate “large scale construction”.
In order to prevent social pressure from influencing the outcome of the vote, a secret ballot was held, despite the concerns of some that such a measure could allow “transphobic” opinion to be voiced.
31 voted against the motion, with 29 in favour, and 7 abstaining.
Cherwell understands that students in support of the introduction of gender neutral toilets are set to reintroduce the motion next term, in the hope that it will then succeed.
Were the college to have instated gender neutral toilets it would have brought it in line with other colleges including Mansfield, St. Catherine’s, Nuffield, St. Hilda’s, Wadham, LMH, St. Peters, Balliol, St. Johns, St. Benet’s, and St. Hugh’s.
It is unclear whether Somerville College will attempt to implement gender neutral toilets irrespective of the outcome of the JCR vote.