Signs of the Times – Winnipeg Free Press



The Canadian Museum for Human Rights makes all of its washrooms inclusive spaces that everyone can use, regardless of gender identity.

On Monday morning, shopkeepers removed signage with the familiar ‘male’ or ‘female’ icons from each of the Winnipeg facility’s 18 public bathrooms, replacing them with signage depicting icons of the amenities inside – toilets, urinals and changing tables. Any staff or volunteer washrooms in the building will also move away from the binary gender system – male or female. Bathrooms that were already single occupancy areas will remain so.

Each bathroom will also soon be equipped with dispensers filled with free menstrual products and disposal units.

“We want everyone to be able to go to the bathroom safely and comfortably,” said Haran Vijayanathan, director of equity and growth at the museum. “We don’t want to force people to conform to a gender binary system (which they may not subscribe to).”


MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

SignEX’s Blair Meyers installs new signage as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights removes “men’s” and “women’s” bathrooms.

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MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

SignEX’s Blair Meyers installs new signage as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights removes “men’s” and “women’s” bathrooms.

While for decades the norm has been to divide bathrooms into male and female categories, gender exists beyond that binary, says Noreen Mian, executive director of the Rainbow Resource Centre, which offers many forms of support to the local LGBTTQ+ community.

Mian called the progress of the museum pot “a step in the right direction,” affirming individual and collective rights to access inclusive and safe spaces, while supporting the needs of transgender, non-binary or other people. gender diverse, as well as cisgender (those whose gender matches their birth sex) allies.

“It normalizes the reality that people don’t just identify as male or female,” said Mian, whose organization was consulted by the museum before the change. “It looks like an active demonstration on their part to do better and to remedy the wrongdoings of the past.”

Over the past two years, the museum has experienced an identity crisis that it has been forced to confront head-on. A 2020 review of the institution – spurred by revelations that some LGBTTQ+ content had been censored or hidden from certain tourist groups between 2015 and 2017 – said the CMHR had a “pervasive” and “systematic” problem of racism, sexual harassment and homophobia, which led to widespread public criticism, as well as administrative upheaval.

Former CEO John Young left the museum in August 2020 and, in his place, the federal heritage minister appointed human rights lawyer Isha Khan, who became both the first woman and first person of color to lead the CMHR.




<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Instead of gender-specific icons, new CMHR bathroom signage indicates what amenities are available and whether the room is accessible.</p>
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<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Instead of gender-specific icons, new CMHR bathroom signage indicates what amenities are available and whether the room is accessible.</p>
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<p>A follow-up report by Winnipeg attorney Laurelle Harris, released in the fall of 2021, revealed more equity-related issues affecting members of the LGBTTQ+ community and people of color.  Both reports made several recommendations for moving forward.			</p>
<p>One of those recommendations was to review all communications to identify and remove gender binaries.  Another was to review all visitor resources, including name badges and signage, to ensure they respect gender diversity.			</p>
<p>Generally speaking, there has been significant movement in terms of understanding gender as a non-binary concept in Canada, and much more is needed.  In 2017, the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code were amended to protect people from discrimination and hate crimes based on gender identity or expression, protections the LGBTTQ+ community has been advocating for ever since. years.			</p>
<p>The most recent Canadian census included an option to specify the sex individuals were assigned at birth as well as the sex they identify with today.  “This has filled an important gender diversity information gap,” said a Statistics Canada release.  It was the first national census in the world to collect and publish data on gender diversity, the organization said.			</p>
<p>According to the May 2021 census, one in 300 people over the age of 15 in Canada identified as transgender or non-binary.  The proportions of transgender and non-binary people born between 1997 and 2006 were significantly higher than in previous generations.  About one percent of adults between the ages of 20 and 24 have identified as transgender or non-binary.			</p>
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<p> Jessica Sigurdson / CMHR</p>
<p>Wes Waagenaar, a sign installer at SignEX, is removing gender-specific decals at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which is converting all of its bathrooms to gender-neutral spaces.</ p>“/>														
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<p>    Jessica Sigurdson / CMHR</p>
<p>Wes Waagenaar, a sign installer at SignEX, is removing gender-specific decals at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which is converting all of its bathrooms to gender-neutral spaces.</p>
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<p>In Manitoba, 3,620 people have identified as transgender or non-binary, representing approximately 0.34% of the province’s population.  Since all data was based on self-reporting, the proportion could and probably is higher, as some people are not comfortable sharing this information.			</p>
<p>This is partly because there is still a stigma against trans and non-binary people, who continue to be marginalized, harassed and often subjected to violence because of their identity, including when using public toilets, said Vijayanathan.  (Wednesday, May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.)			</p>
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Mian of the Rainbow Resource Center said concrete changes to infrastructure and policies reduce this stigma and create opportunities for inclusion and increased comfort. She was impressed that rather than changing one or two bathrooms to become gender-neutral, the museum did so for every installation in the building. This kind of movement helps affirm people’s gender identity, she said, and could inspire other organizations to make similar changes.

With the bathroom change, Vijayanathan – whose work was created in response to 2020 concerns – says the museum is addressing previous issues and ongoing inclusivity considerations in a simple but crucial way. On the museum’s website, there is a list of all the recommendations that track how they were implemented.

“We can proudly say that we have started to implement them,” he said. “We are by no means perfect, but we are moving in the right direction.”

The next step in the bathroom department is to work with an architect to make physical changes beyond signage, including increasing privacy with taller stalls.

But first, the binary restroom signage had to go.

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