Access to menstrual product disposal bins ensures people’s privacy and hygiene when they get their periods in public spaces. However, lack of access to these bins in men’s washrooms on campus inhibits how UBC’s transmasculine students and staff express their identities.
To see how accessible these sanitary bins are, I surveyed 277 bathroom stalls in 16 buildings across campus to determine the percentage of toilet stalls with sanitary disposal bins in men’s, women’s and gender-inclusive washrooms. Across the surveyed washrooms, 100 per cent of women’s stalls and 92 per cent of unisex stalls had disposal bins. Zero per cent of men’s washroom stalls had sanitary disposal bins.
Currently, UBC suggests training staff, adding accurate signage to washrooms and reminding users not to assume whether or not someone is in the ‘correct’ washroom to ensure trans people who choose to use gender-specific washrooms feel welcome. Yet the absence of sanitary disposal bins in men’s stalls presents problems for the transmasculine people these guidelines don’t yet cover.
Carrying soiled menstrual products until a garbage can is found is unhygienic and is even more difficult in UBC buildings like West Mall Swing Space which exclusively have ‘Paper Towel Only’ bins in their men’s washrooms. Being seen carrying menstrual products or heard using them in a stall can also out a trans person, making them vulnerable to verbal and physical assault.
UBC has joined other Canadian institutions in establishing gender-inclusive washrooms across campus to mitigate these problems. However, gender-inclusive washrooms might not be enough.
Single-stall bathrooms can be hard to access. For example, in Allard I was unable to access the first-floor single-stall washrooms and the upper-floor inclusive washrooms could only be accessed through the Law Library. Forcing people to only use single-stall or gender-neutral bathrooms reinforces the idea that trans bodies are something ‘other,’ and are unwelcome in their gender-specific spaces.
UBC has recently launched a consultation process regarding inclusive washrooms on campus. The university is planning to use the recommendations from this report to guide how inclusive washrooms are supported moving forward.
“The Equity and Inclusion Office has heard some concerns from students that menstrual product disposal is not currently provided in men’s washrooms,” said Educational Strategist of the Student Diversity Initiative Dr. Hélène Frohard-Dourlent of UBC’s Equity and Inclusion Office in a written statement to The Ubyssey.
“In terms of addressing this particular concern, we expect it will be part of the considerations in the report coming out of the Inclusive Washroom Project.”