Mon, May 04, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Gay, lesbian groups call for public restroom equity

‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN HERE?’ Students from the groups said they encounter hostility and questions in washrooms when they don’t look as others expect

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Gay and lesbian student activists yesterday called on universities to alter public toilet designations to accommodate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) students’ needs.

“Because public toilets at schools are designated as either men’s rooms or women’s rooms, it creates a lot of trouble for GLBT students who may not always look the way mainstream opinion would expect someone of their gender to look,” Tsai Pi-jung (蔡璧嶸), president of National Chengchi University’s (NCCU) Gay Student Club, told a press conference in Taipei.

“We suggest that schools change the designation on public restrooms from marking the gender to marking whether it has toilets or urinals or both inside,” he said.

Tsai then showed two restroom signs he had made. On one, the shape of a toilet is drawn to indicate that “there are only toilets inside,” and the other has a shape of a toilet and the shape of a urinal drawn to indicate that “both toilets and urinals are inside.”

“This way, public toilets would be designated by ‘function’ instead of ‘gender,’” he said.

NCCU’s Lesbian Student Club president has short hair and dresses in jeans and a T-shirt. ­People ­sometimes mistake her for a man, she said.

Wishing only to be known as “Strawberry,” she told the press conference that women sometimes asked her what she was doing in the women’s restroom.

“Whenever that happens, I have to explain that I am a woman. Then I’m asked why I dress like a man,” Strawberry said. “Why do I have to go through all this questioning when I just want to use the bathroom?”

A student from Shih Hsin University Graduate School of Journalism who wished to be known only as “Hsiao Mo (小莫),” is a man who likes to dress in what would be considered women’s clothing. He usually encounters the same problem.

“I sometimes get verbally insulted and kicked out of a men’s room, but when I go to a women’s room, I have the feeling that I shouldn’t be in there,” Mo said.

Meanwhile, Tsai also called on schools to relax dorm regulations.

“College students are all grown adults, their freedom of movement as granted in the Constitution should not be compromised like this,” Tsai said.

A survey conducted by Tsai’s group of 11 public and private universities found that most of them had strict curfews and restrictions on visitors.

Most of the schools had strict regulations on male visitors to women’s dorms — they are either required to wear special clothing, are allowed only during certain times, or — in National Taiwan Normal University’s case — no male visitors are allowed in women’s dorms and vice versa.

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