The Auckland University of Technology (AUT) has reassigned 165 on-campus gender-neutral bathrooms in an effort to provide more comfortable arrangements for gender diverse students. According to AUT Rainbow Community manager Audrey Hutcheson, the change was made to ensure students safety on campus, “If you’re in transition and look too feminine to belong in a male bathroom, or too masculine to being using a female bathroom, being attacked verbally or physically is really common for these students.”
This comes after Victoria University introduced 95 gender-neutral bathrooms on campus in 2010, with OUSA following suit in 2014 by changing the signage on the bathrooms in the Clubs & Socs Building. Of the 1,357 students who participated in OUSA’s survey, 43 students reported feeling ‘uncomfortable’ using gender segregated facilities. At the time the University of Otago Property Services said they had been “asked to investigate the provision of gender-neutral facilities in existing buildings and for their inclusion in all new buildings. This process is underway.” Harlene Hayne stated that she was “on board” with the policy. Despite this initial enthusiasm, no progress has been made in the two and a half years since. In a recent Official Information Act request for information about the location of gender-neutral bathrooms, the University Registrar offered a list of 14 buildings on campus with facilities. This list was almost entirely made up of unisex disabled bathrooms, which activists would point out are not quite the same thing.
Victoria University Vice-Provost Allison Kirkman said in response to another OIA request that “Victoria University has no reports of gender-based violence in relation to bathrooms on campus, and any such reports would be taken very seriously by the University as a criminal matter and breach of the Student Conduct Statute. No substantive costs were involved in the specific provision of gender neutral bathrooms, as the costs involved are related to signage, rather than the construction of the bathrooms themselves.”
Notoriously homophobic, sexist and all around fucking awful organisation Family First released a typically ignorant statement saying “Schools are being bullied by government and advocacy groups into adopting ‘gender identity’ policies around uniforms, toilets, changing rooms, and sports teams. Most schools want to act in the best interests of the whole school community without fear of breaching the law, but some are buckling under the pressure.”
If any god should ever choose to smite the OUSA Clubs & Socs building for our sins of diversity and inclusion, Critic promises to be there to cover it.