There are many types of washrooms at our Health Unit offices - binary (men's and women's), accessible (barrier-free) and all-gender. Our goal is to create an environment in which all people feel safe and welcome to access the washroom most comfortable for them, based on their lived gender identity, free of anxiety or discrimination.

What is an "all-gender washroom"?

All-gender washrooms are safe spaces were anyone, regardless of gender identity, gender expression or biological sex, can use the bathroom. At the Health Unit, our all-gender washrooms are single stall and identified on the door with a symbol of a toilet.

Why are “all-gender washrooms” needed and used?

All-gender washrooms provide a safe washroom space for trans (an umbrella term referring to people with diverse gender identities and expressions that differ from stereotypical gender norms) and non-binary people (those whose gender identity does not fit in the male-female binary, e.g. genderqueer), as well as those whose gender expression may not appear to match their gender identity (source: Nipissing University All-Gender Washroom, 2017).

There are many people who cannot use public spaces like washrooms without fear of harassment, stares, verbal abuse, threats, physical intimidation or being reported/arrested. It is essential to understand that many people’s experience of accessing public spaces like washrooms is not safe, easy or supported – and it is important to purposefully create welcoming, inclusive spaces everyone can use. This is part of a larger social shift to make it easier for everyone to participate fully in public, work and social environments.

All-gender washrooms are also helpful for many other people:

  • small children or other individuals who are accompanied by a parent, caregiver or personal attendant of a different gender identity;

  • people who experience anxiety; and

  • people who may appreciate privacy for different reasons (e.g. breastfeeding, administering medications)

How is gender identity different from gender expression?

Gender identity is each person's internal and individual experience of gender.  It is their sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along or outside the gender spectrum.  A person's gender identity may be the same as or different from their birth assigned sex.

For most people, their sex and gender identity align. For some, they do not. A person may be born male but identify as a woman, or born female but identify as a man. Other people may identify outside the categories of woman/man, or may see their gender identity as fluid and moving between different genders at different times in their life.

Gender expression is how a person presents their gender to the other people.  This can include how they dress, their hairstyle, make-up, body language, and voice.  A person's chosen name and pronoun are also common ways of expressing gender.

Source:  The 519 Community Centre in Toronto: Creating Authentic Spaces: A gender Identity and Gender Expression Toolkit. Retrieved from http://www.ryerson.ca/content/dam/equity/documents/519-Creating-Authentic-Spaces-AODA.pdf

Are there all-gender and accessible (barrier-free) washrooms in every Health Unit office?

Yes. There are all-gender washrooms available to both staff and the public in North Bay (first floor), Burk’s Falls and Parry Sound Health Unit offices.

Many of these washrooms are accessible (barrier-free) and include baby/child change tables. One the first floor in North Bay, there are four single-room washrooms that are barrier-free, six barrier-free stalls located within the stalled washrooms, washrooms with baby/child change tables and one adult change table in a barrier-free single room washroom. 

All-Gender Washroom Symbol   All-Gender Barrier Free Washroom Symbol

 Why are signs needed beside the male and female washrooms?

Transphobic violence, and the fear of harassment, being perceived as trans, and being “outed” is responsible for avoidance of public spaces such as washrooms by trans and non-binary people.

Posting signage that suggests the only criteria necessary for using any washroom is self-identification, advocates for the rights and safety of all who use the washroom.  It can decrease anxiety among trans and non-binary persons in choosing the washroom most comfortable for them, and it both empowers and gives control to the individual.

Throughout North America, hundreds of groups and organizations are coming forward to debunk the oft-repeated myth that transgender washroom laws and non-discrimination protections (like allowing trans persons to use the washroom that aligns with their gender identity) will place women and children at increased risk for assault. These groups include police and other law enforcement officials, school districts, universities, colleges, advocates for victims of sexual assault & domestic violence, civil liberties and human rights groups, LGBTQ2S+ groups and women’s organizations.  Based on their data, research, and experience, these organizations propose that there has been no reported incidences or allegations of assault stemming from transgender bathroom laws or policies, no correlation between unsafe spaces for women and providing equitable access to facilities for trans and gender non-binary persons, and confirm a reported decrease in incidences of violence, harassment and discrimination against trans and gender non-binary persons.

Signage posted by the Health Unit outside our washrooms also indicates that in this organization, a person’s choice of washroom should be met without comment or question, and communicates that any discrimination against trans and non-binary people will not be accepted. It provides education and in an era where the fear of discrimination prevents people from using public spaces, communicates clearly that the Health Unit is a space of welcome, safety and support.

We would like to acknowledge that the signage posted in our health unit is adapted from that developed by Nipissing University, which was done in conjunction with students, staff and members of the Trans community. There process was informed by both service providers and students with lived experience, and we are grateful for their work.  

Where can I learn more?

North Bay

345 Oak Street West

Parry Sound

70 Joseph Street Unit #302

Burk's Falls

17 Copeland Street (by appointment only)