Cisgender people—those whose gender identity corresponds to their birth sex— rarely think twice about going to the comfort room.
For transgender people, there is not much “comfort” in comfort rooms (CRs) when public CRs can be a place where their gender identities are questioned, or worse, discriminated.
As a step towards further inclusivity in Silliman University, the Office of Student Affairs has affirmed its support for Illuminates of the Spectra’s (ISPEC) proposal to convert certain CRs into gender-inclusive ones. If this proposal gets approved by the University Administration, it will be a concrete manifestation of SU’s initiative in advocating for equal rights and fighting discrimination.
According to ISPEC’s proposal, gender-inclusive CRs can benefit not only the LGBTQ+ community, but also people who assist others of the opposite gender; like mothers who assist their little sons and, with the right facilities, even Persons with Disability (PWDs).
The concept of gender-inclusive CRs is also not new; universities like Ateneo de Manila, Ateneo de Davao and St. Louis University already have gender-inclusive CRs in their campuses.
So far in ISPEC’s plan, one of the ways in which they proposed to create gender-inclusive CRs is by changing gender-specific signs into “All Gender” or “Gender Neutral.”
Aside from that, they also proposed that CRs with functioning toilets would not need additional urinals; in other words, CR interiors would stay as is, unless facilities have to be fixed or upgraded.
For single-occupancy CRs in SU to be converted, all it would take is to change its restroom signs. Multi-occupancy or multi-stall CRs, however, are another question; this is where concerns over safe spaces, especially for women, arise. The fear of gender-inclusive, multi-stall CRs being misused and the possibility of people being hesitant in using the CRs because of this fear are matters to be considered and discussed before proceeding with the conversion.
While the Weekly Sillimanian stands with ISPEC in creating gender-inclusive CRs to benefit everyone, especially the LGBTQ+ community, tWS encourages involved parties, including the student body, to come up with more possible ways to have gender-inclusive CRs in the campus aside from changing CR signs; ways that will lessen fears and hesitations get in the way of gender-inclusive CRs being fully utilized.
With the right design, multi-stall CRs can be renovated to have increased privacy.
An example would be a design proposal made by Moss, a Chicago-based architecture firm that believes every public restroom “can and should” be gender-neutral.
In Moss’ design plan, a multi-occupancy CR is replaced with multiple, single-occupancy
CRs that are gender-inclusive. Lavatories can be shared in a common area outside the CRs.
Setting up single-occupancy CRs in strategic locations, like the ones outside Silliman Hall, can be a better option for gender-inclusive CRs than converting multi-occupancy ones.
These suggestions are costlier, but the University does not necessarily have to
construct everything all at once if the proposal gets approved—there will be time
to save up and invest. Merely changing signs in multi-occupancy CRs is the cheaper
way, but allocating an ample budget to have safer facilities for all will be the better
Moreover, we urge skeptics of gender-inclusive CRs to engage in a proper discussion with ISPEC and supporters of their proposal.
A public discourse on this proposal is worth opening to ensure that we are on the same page in every step, and that we understand why there is a need to firmly place the “comfort” back in “comfort room” for those who have been hurt by years of discrimination and persecution.