Georgian’s facilities management team is busy this month installing new signs on the walls outside every single washroom across all seven college campuses. The new signs send an important message. They read: “At Georgian, we respect everyone’s right to choose the washroom most appropriate for them.”
Georgian has had single-stall, accessible, gender-neutral washrooms for about five years, but alumnus Allysha Miller remembers when they decided those weren’t enough.
“The idea came from a safe spaces training session that GCSA attended,” the former campus ambassador explains. It was 2019, and student leaders were learning from Georgian grad and local LGBTQ2S+ activist Dale Boyle.
“I knew we needed to create an inclusive and safe space for trans and gender-nonconforming students here at Georgian College,” says Allysha. “These signs will send a message to the LGBTQ2S+ community that we stand with them in the fight against transphobia.”
After the training session, Allysha did research to understand how other postsecondary institutions were addressing the discomfort many trans people feel around male- and female-designated washrooms. They created signs that were posted outside the Barrie Campus Athletics Centre, knowing trans students often face challenges with changerooms.
That’s when Georgian’s senior leaders, and the college’s newly-formed Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee, decided to explore whether inclusive signage could be installed across all campuses.
Sheona Morrison and Leanne Jackson, active employee members of the EDI group, were excited when Georgian’s senior leaders approved the change in 2020.
“It’s an acknowledgement that we welcome and support the most marginalized students,” says Sheona, who works closely with students as Manager of Student Leadership. “We’re making a statement to say you belong here, we value you. And we’re in this together. We welcome the conversation on what we as an organization can do to move this even further forward.”
The signage was deliberately posted in the halls, so that trans and gender non-confirming students don’t have to self-identify by asking for help locating a more inclusive space. Each sign also lists the closest single-stall, gender-neutral washroom.
In addition to gender inclusive signage, the committee worked closely with the Office of the Registrar to improve the college’s preferred name change process.
This change will make it easier for trans and gender-nonconforming students to update their chosen or preferred name in the college’s database, so that they’re not confronted with their old identities every time they register for a course, log into their online learning systems, or receive a Georgian email.
The process change request came directly from students who were experiencing confusion and difficulties in making a preferred or chosen name change.
The committee and the Office of the Registrar created a new confidential process that includes an easy-to-access online form that students can simply fill out and submit. The committee also ensured that this form included input and feedback from the very students that raised this concern as well as Georgian Pride, a student LGBTQ2S+ organization. The fillable PDF form can be found on the forms page of Georgian’s website.
Allysha, Leanne and Sheona acknowledge that there is still room for improvement as Georgian works to become a more inclusive organization. But they’re celebrating these steps in the right direction.
“The fact that senior leaders are supporting these initiatives is a huge indication that we’re getting better, as an organization, at recognizing that we are a diverse community,” says Leanne, Georgian’s Manager of Conflict Resolution and Investigation. “We need to take more steps to ensure that every member of our community feels included.”