Shawinigan, Québec, CA – Two men who identify as women lodged a complaint with the City of Shawinigan, claiming they have been repeatedly denied access to the women’s changing room and restroom at a park swimming pool.
According to the men’s complaint, in denying them access to the women’s locker room and restroom, staff at Frank Gauthier Park discriminated against them based on their gender identity.
“Since last summer, my girlfriend and I have been banned from changing clothes in the girls’ locker room,” Aria Dufresne, a man who identifies as a woman, told Le Nouvelliste. Noémie Allaire, the individual whom Mr Dufresne calls girlfriend, is also male. The two men are in the process of gender transition.
Mr Dufresne says he was brought to tears by one particular experience. “I went to the bathroom the last time, because I was not able to restrain myself, and I was threatened with being banished from the pool.”
He informed the lifeguards who confronted him that the law allows him to access the space, but “they did not want to know anything. They wanted to bring us in front of their boss, to have us arrested by the police; they even wanted to force us out of the locker room. It’s disgusting,” he insisted. “We make costumes (cosplay), we are gothic and transgender, it makes us different, so the world doesn’t like us because of that.”
On June 10, 2016, Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms added gender identity as a protected class. Under the charter, an individual who feels that his or her gender identity aligns with the opposite sex may access facilities designated for the opposite sex. The charter also prohibits discrimination against transgender individuals in housing, work and transportation.
The first known flushing toilet was showcased in the UK in 1851.
Working-class women in the west campaigned for, and despite sabotage and resistance, ultimately won the right to public toilets in the late 19th century as women entered previously male-dominated professions and began working in factories alongside men.
Lack of access to public toilets once kept women in the west on a “urinary leash,” restricting women from moving far from home. Women were targeted for sexual assault and sexual harassment as an intimidation tactic by those who did not believe a woman’s place was outside of the home. Despite availability of sex-specific restrooms and locker rooms today, women and girls are the vast majority of victims of voyeurism and sexual assaults in these facilities. Some of these male-bodied sexual assailants identify as women or cross-dress.
Dearth of sex-specific restrooms remains a major obstacle for women and girls in developing nations like Ghana and the Sudan, where girls stay home from school during their menstrual cycle. Schools lack facilities to accommodate girls’ need to privately change and properly dispose of feminine hygiene products, which are considered biohazardous waste once used. Women in countries like India remain subjected to the “urinary leash” that once kept western women close to home. Indian girls compelled by circumstances to relieve themselves in view of men have been raped and killed.
Women’s campaigners express fears that mixed-sex restrooms and locker rooms as a result of gender identity policies, like the one Mr Dufresne and Mr Allaire filed a complaint under, will roll back the progression of women’s rights in the west, even as women and girls fight for toilet rights in developing are just beginning their fight for women’s toilets.
“If I’m not entitled to my own rights, I want it to be known,” Mr Dufresne declared.
The City of Shawinigan is processing the complaint.
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SHAWINIGAN — Lorsque la chaleur de l’été devient trop accablante, les Shawiniganais peuvent aller se rafraîchir dans l’une des quatre piscines extérieures de la ville.
100 Women: How the ‘urinary leash’ keeps women at home
In the Victorian period, the lack of public facilities for women was intentional as a way of controlling their movements and keeping them out of public spaces, argues Dr Clara Greed, emerita professor of inclusive urban planning at the University of the West of England in Bristol.