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Professor Sheila Cavanagh on Toronto's unisex washroom trend

Professor Sheila Cavanagh on Toronto's unisex washroom trend

Sheila Cavanagh, professor of sociology at York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], recently published a book called Queering Bathrooms: Gender, Sexuality, and the Hygienic Imagination, in which transgendered and other queer interviewees discuss the difficulties that divided bathrooms present, wrote the Toronto Star March 4:

The evolution of bathroom-stall signage — from line drawings to hens-versus-roosters shtick to ambiguously arty pin-ups — has left a growing number of Toronto restaurants with no sign at all. In Ottawa, meanwhile, the so-called “bathroom bill” recently passed in the House of Commons by a narrow margin. Among other things, the controversial legislation reinforces the rights of transgendered people to use whatever bathroom they see fit.

. . .

Cavanagh loves seeing bathroom signs that are victims of their own cleverness, the ones that make it difficult to figure out which door means what, said the Star. “That moment of confusion gives people a moment to pause and wonder, ‘Does that sign fit me or not?’. . . (and to) wonder what it might be like for those whose gender identity isn’t so clear,” she says. “What do you do when you need to use the bathroom but you’re not sure which door to go into?”

At the book launch for Queering Bathrooms at the Gladstone Hotel in November, a York graduate student named Teresa Jewell made washroom signs with a variety of different gender-signifying images – bras, ties, high-heels, pads – and pinned them over the usual male-female signage.

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer, with files courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.