The obsession with regulating where transgender people go the bathroom is definitely not subsiding.
Despite his stated support of LGBTQ people, U.S. President Donald Trump decided last month to revoke an executive order instructing American schools to allow transgender students to use the washroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
It's not exactly a shocking development, given his fear-mongering rhetoric on the campaign trail. But it flies in the face of the cultural progress activists on post-secondary school campuses have been making in the fight for gender-neutral washrooms.
At colleges and universities across Toronto, LGBTQ groups have pushed administrators to designate washrooms as gender-free.
Schools that have opened gender-neutral washrooms include York University, the University of Toronto, Centennial College, Sheridan College, Ryerson University and George Brown College.
Where do Toronto's post-secondary schools stand on gender-neutral washrooms?
Centennial College has undertaken education and awareness campaigns to support trans students' right to use the washroom of their choosing. In 2015 the school also introduced 24 single-stall inclusive washrooms for trans students who feel uncomfortable using gendered washrooms.
Humber College's Gender Diversity Policy includes access to gender-neutral washrooms and change-room facilities identified by signage.
Ryerson University has 71 single-stall all-gender washrooms and has posted signage on gendered washrooms indicating that trans students are welcome.
Seneca College has five single-stall gender-neutral washrooms across its York, Newnham and Markham campuses.
Sheridan College has 18 single-stall universal washrooms, though a couple are not identified or are marked with gendered signs.
University of Toronto's Washroom Inclusivity Project has collected information about nearly 2,000 washrooms across three campuses. There are approximately 21 all-gender washrooms on the Scarborough campus, 21 in Mississauga (including six multi-user washrooms) and 232 across St. George.
York University's website lists 76 single-stall gender-neutral washrooms on its Keele campus, and map shows their locations.
"Thanks to transgender student activism in post-secondary institutions, there's been progressively more movement to develop inclusive bathrooms," says Sheila Cavanagh, an associate professor teaching gender and sexuality studies at York University. "I'm not saying it's ideal, but a lot of good work has been done in post-secondary institutions, and we need to support that."
But what if we looked beyond gender-neutral alternatives and made all washrooms inclusive?
Cavanagh's research suggests that open-concept facilities would make washrooms safer and less of a headache for more than just trans people.
In her 2010 book Queering Bathrooms: Gender, Sexuality, And The Hygienic Imagination, she points out that gender-segregated toilets were created to signify class distinctions and "genteel respectability" during the Victorian era in London and Paris
The first gender-segregated public toilets were created at a Parisian ball in 1739. Chamber pots were placed in separate rooms, with signs reading "hommes" and "femmes" hung on the doors. Valets and chambermaids were on hand respectively.
"Everyone thought this was a quirky thing the bourgeois were doing, because at that time excretion was not only not gendered but was very open," Cavanagh explains. "It wasn't uncommon for people to put a chamber pot right next to the dining room table and excrete."
As public lavatories sprang up and the flush toilet was invented, public ordinances privatized these spaces and entrenched their segregation along gender lines.
"A lot of people argue that we need to gender bathrooms to keep women safe," says Cavanagh. "But gender-inclusive, open-concept designs tend to be safer for everyone. When we gender and enclose spaces, we create dangerous situations for people in general."
Cavanagh interviewed 100 trans people for her book and found that physical and sexual assaults almost always occurred in gendered bathrooms. "It's much more difficult to commit a violent act in an open-concept space that anyone can walk into," she says.
Moreover, transphobic people were more likely to treat the gendered signs on the door as a licence to harass, whereas they didn't feel that liberty in gender-inclusive spaces.
Gender-neutral washrooms benefit many other groups, such as disabled people with attendants who aren't the same gender as them; and (cisgendered) fathers with young daughters, who often can't accompany them into public women's washrooms.
In restaurants with single-stall facilities, washroom desegregation is more efficient from a traffic flow perspective.
"I really see no health or safety rationale for gendered bathrooms," she says.
Though open-design washrooms are more common abroad, the concept is not unheard of in Toronto.
The Regent Park Aquatic Centre – winner of a 2016 Governor General's Medal in Architecture – is the first facility in Canada to provide "universal" change rooms welcoming to all genders. The facility features open common areas as well as private cubicles.
Of the nearly 2,000 washrooms across the University of Toronto's three campuses, 274 are all-gender and six of those (on the Mississauga campus) are multi-user.
"We need to think creatively about ways to increase access to all spaces," says Alllison Burgess, the school's sexual and gender diversity officer. "Many people are uncomfortable in gendered spaces; many are uncomfortable in all-gender spaces. There are a lot of reasons for this, but if the aim to create more inclusion and increase access to resources, then broadening washroom design to be most inclusive is, to my mind, the best thing to do."
Last fall, the House of Commons voted to pass Bill C-16, which enshrines gender identity and gender expression protections in the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code. Conservatives are stalling the bill in the Senate, but if passed it would make it illegal to discriminate against trans people.
Cavanagh says further laws and policies - coupled with public education campaigns - are needed to foster a culture of inclusion. This will mean removing the gender box from bureaucratic forms and making it easier for trans people to legally change their names.
"Right now the best way to accommodate everybody is by introducing options," she says.