Gender-neutral bathrooms are a salient point of current LGBTTQ+ dialogue, but their direct implication in daily life extends far beyond LGBTTQ+ communities: it touches every single person. The 2016 Ottawa Capital Pride theme “Bathrooms without Borders” wraps a powerful and important message in a light and fun package, and no matter how you look at it, it sparks reflection and conversation.
The theme and logo elaboration has been on the forefront of Ottawa Capital Pride’s discussions since the very inception of the new organization, one and half years ago.
The Chair of Capital Pride, Tammy Dopson, explains that the organization’s mission is to be as positive, inclusive, open and welcoming as it can be, while maintaining a strong sense of advocacy for those who are marginalized and whose human rights are still being denied or overlooked.
Ms. Dopson goes on to further explain that although there is still a lot of work to do in the area of sexual orientation, generally in Western societies and particularly in Canada, equality for those who are homosexual or bisexual is well on its way to being established as the norm, notably in the legislative arena.
She notes that a distinct dialogue shift from sexual orientation to gender identity is occurring in the LGBTTQ + community, and that gender expression is a new and harder conversation to have, but one that is crucial to the advancement of trans rights in particular, and human rights in general.
Individuals who identify as transgender, genderqueer, gender fluid, non-binary, or who have a different gender expression than cisnormative genders are still marginalized and are sometimes denied basic services, even right here in Ottawa.
Ottawa Capital Pride’s Board and Operations Committee worked with the Ottawa trans rights advocacy and support group to develop and implement a campaign focused on transgender rights, public education and removal of barriers for 2016’s Capital Pride. They have called upon members of the LGBTTQ+ community to stand up for trans rights, and have agreed that gender neutral bathrooms would be the starting point of this campaign.
This year’s “Bathrooms without Borders”-themed Pride aims at providing a safe space for individuals who are transgender, genderqueer, non-binary, etc., by giving them a public space in which they don’t have to fear discrimination, outing themselves, or having to make the choice of identifying with a binary gender.
Although this campaign is fairly new and hopes to set a global example of inclusivity and harmony, gender neural bathrooms are not a new concept, and they already work. Bathrooms in people’s homes and even some workplaces are gender neutral, many accessible bathrooms are gender neutral, and if you’ve ever been to a festival or a fair and used a port–a–potty, you’ve used a gender neutral bathroom.
The difference that Ottawa Capital Pride is making is that their efforts made in fostering safe, inclusive and discrimination-free gender neutral bathrooms are deliberate. They respond directly to the fear-mongering and hate some politicians have developed through legislation in the United States and other parts of the world, and they indicate that as long as discrimination still happens in the world, LGBTTQ+ communities have the responsibility to continue to fight and advocate, particularly for transgender individuals, Indigenous communities and people of colour, as they are even more likely to be discriminated against and marginalized.
As Canada’s capital, Ottawa is already a leader in setting a great example for inclusivity, and “Bathrooms without Borders” also aims celebrating the achievements and accomplishments of Ottawa’s LGBTTQ+ community. The Festival is coming back to the Village on Bank St., and strongly emphasizes that all are welcome to attend, discover, and celebrate Pride.
The Ottawa Capital Pride Festival takes place from August 15 to 21, and ends with the signature Pride parade on Sunday. A large number of community events ranging from family friendly BBQs, to an all new QueerCon, to nightclub parties, have been organized. The establishments hosting these events are participating in “Bathrooms without Borders” throughout the length of the Festival.