Students had the opportunity to learn everything they ever needed to know and more about anal beads and dildos in MacEwan Student Centre this week during Sexual Awareness Week. The week was brought to students by the Students’ Union and included screenings of two documentaries about pornography, Inside Deep Throat and Not a Love Story, guest speaker Sue Johanson of Sex with Sue fame and a sexual trade show filled with vendors hawking their naughty toys.
It’s safe to say that most university students know what a dildo is and can use their imagination to understand anal beads, even if they don’t want to try them out. But instead of filling MacEwan Hall with people insisting: “you haven’t had sex until you’ve had sex with anal beads,” and showing one-sided movies about how women are victimized by the pornography industry, the SU missed the opportunity to create a forum to discuss sexual issues that university students are less aware of.
For example, a story in the Gauntlet this week deals with another sexual issue the general population on campus is much less aware of: trans-gender washrooms. Though the initial idea is enough to induce a fit of giggles or a lament about political correctness gone awry, for members of the student body who do not fit neatly into the categories male or female, the problem of which washroom to use is a very real one.
The number of individuals who live outside the stringent gender categories of male or female is surprisingly high. According to the Intersex Society of North America, one in 100 births differ from the standard definition of male or female. This includes a host of birth conditions like being born with chromosomes differing from the sexual organs, an enlarged clitoris in females or a micro-penis in males, or even having one ovary and one testicle.
The term intersexed refers to the biological ways people deviate from a “normal” male or female, without taking into account other different-sexed individuals, who live their gender in the way they feel most comfortable, rather than being defined by the genitalia between their legs. This can include masculine-looking females, feminine-looking males or transsexual individuals.
People who don’t fit into societal definitions of “normal” gender have to deal with snickers, questions and even harassment when entering public washrooms. As a result, they may avoid public washrooms altogether, which can lead to bladder infections and other health problems.
A group of forward-thinking students, faculty and staff at McGill University addressed the issue head-on, and as a result have created a list of gender-neutral washrooms in 15 buildings on their campus. The McGill Equality Subcommittee on Queer People has also added a list of buildings where gender-neutral washrooms are unavailable, with the goal of creating at least one gender-neutral washroom in every building and one on every floor of new buildings.
This debate is not constrained to progressive eastern universities. Students at the University of Alberta are now lobbying for gender-neutral spaces of their own, to ensure everyone has a safe place to pee.
The washrooms wouldn’t be strange and foreign territory designated for gender-freaks, but rather, a gender-neutral space, for anyone male, female, or somewhere in between, who wanted to use them. Private, gender-neutral washrooms around campus also benefit shy people who don’t like doing their business in a public space, as well as students and staff with health conditions, like diabetics who need a place to inject insulin or anyone suffering from conditions like Crohn’s disease, needing to empty a colostomy bag.
After reviewing the facts, finding one gender-neutral washroom space in each building seems like a fairly easy way to alleviate a massive amount of stress for a minority of students. The day-to-day issues different-sexed students must confront also seem like sexual issues students aren’t aware of, and should be. It’s also a little less cliched than an SU-sponsored speaker who was here less than a year ago, and a trade show featuring the same old sex toys.