Divörsity 2019 initiative – Gender-neutral toilets at WU

As of October 2019, a gender-neutral toilet is now available in each building on Campus WU. Gender-neutral means that these toilets are open to everyone, regardless of gender. This modification of the campus infrastructure is WU’s contribution to the Divörsity – österreichische Tage der Diversität initiative.

Why gender-neutral toilets?

It is still common practice, also at WU, to separate toilets based on the distinction between two genders – male and female. In addition, we also find designated toilets for people with disabilities, which negate their intended users’ gender identity. This categorization fails to meet the needs of many people in our society because it negates gender diversity. Gender diversity means that there are more than only two genders (male/female). It means that there are many different gender identities and many different types of bodies, for example intersex, transgender, and non-binary people (brochure “trans. inter*. nicht-binär.” p. 5ff – in German).

When toilets are designated as either male-only or female-only, this means that people who cannot or do not want to identify as either male or female are forced to choose between these two alternatives, even though none of the two options corresponds to their gender identity. Especially people who are not perceived as clearly male or clearly female also have to deal with the fear that they may experience discrimination or even violent aggression in public toilets. Such people frequently report being stared at, having their gender identity questioned (by being told, “You’re in the wrong toilet”), or being told to leave. People who have had such experiences often avoid going to the toilet altogether during the day because they do not want to be confronted with hostility and degrading comments. Gender-neutral or all-gender toilets can help to reduce this form of everyday discrimination on grounds of gender.

Why gender-neutral toilets at WU?

WU is a university characterized by open-mindedness and diversity. It should be a place where everyone who wants to can study, do research, ask questions, and generate knowledge. University employees and students should not only come to WU to perform their respective professional and academic roles, WU also wants to give them the space they need to be present here as full human beings. Providing appropriate sanitary facilities is a crucial element in this regard. The way toilets were organized in the past, based on the separation of men and women, excludes everyone who cannot or prefers not to opt for one of these two genders. In daily life, this can lead to uncomfortable situations and social exclusion. To avoid this and to make WU even more inclusive, as of October 2019, one gender-neutral toilet is now available in each building on Campus WU.

What does this mean in concrete terms?

The vast majority of the restrooms on Campus WU will remain unchanged. However, to make sure that as many people as possible feel comfortable at WU, one gender-neutral toilet is provided in each WU building, including two restrooms with barrier-free accessibility. As of October 1, 2019, the following toilets are gender neutral:

The signs that mark these restrooms indicate the facilities that are available: toilets, urinals, diaper changing tables, or barrier-free toilets. On the picture, you can see one of the new signs.

Who can use the gender-neutral toilets?

The toilets are intended for use by everyone, regardless of gender. Please be respectful of all other restroom users.

Further information

If you have any further questions or would like to find out more about this topic, you may want to have a look at the following brochures (in German), which we used when preparing this article:

trans. inter*. nicht-binär. Lehr- und Lernräume an Hochschulen gestalten.

Non*Binary Universities. Vademekum zu geschlechtergerecht(er)en Hochschulen.

For questions, you can also contact WU’s Equal Opportunities Committee (ak-gleich@wu.ac.at) or the WU Gender and Diversity Policy office (Jessica.wulf@wu.ac.at).