Somerville’s ‘non-binary’ signs draw criticism
(This article was originally published at https://cherwell.org/2018/04/29/somervilles-non-binary-signs-draw-criticism/ in April 2018)
Somerville college have responded to JCR demands for gender neutral and non-binary signage on a number of college toilets by attaching new gendered signs to the doors.
The signs show both the traditional, binary male/female symbols and make no reference to people who identify as non-binary or outside of the gender spectrum.
They have been attached to the doors of the college bar toilets and two bathrooms of the Vaughan first-year accommodation block.
The new signs are attached to toilet doors with velcro. The original signs remain underneath.
Students have already taken to turning the signs upside down.
Somerville JCR LGBTQ officer Eilidh Wilson, stated that: “The JCR’s request was specific for a reason. There is no point in initiatives with a premise of trans inclusivity that don’t actually have a positive impact for trans students.”
Wilson received support and information from Oxford’s LGBTQ society, and has since called upon Baroness Janet Royall, the college principal, and Andrew Palmer, college treasurer, to address the issue.
College officials are yet to respond to Wilson’s complaints.
Royall has previously stated her enthusiastic support for the change.
Wilson cited the Stonewall Organization’s “Trans Inclusive Policies and Benefits”, a pamphlet on trans policies, to demonstrate how she considered the signs inadequate.
The pamphlet states: “It’s worth noting that utilising appropriate signage is incredibly important – having ‘Toilets’ on the door is not enough, it needs to explicitly say ‘Gender Neutral’ or something along those lines.”
The motion to replace the signs was overwhelmingly supported by the JCR last term, with 83 votes for and 16 against with eight abstentions.
The motion previously had failed by one vote in Michaelmas 2017 after concerns were raised for the well-being and safety of cisgendered women along with practicalities of changing the signs, leading to national coverage.
Rainbow Entz officer, Joe Cresswell, called the signs “an audacious attempt to brush the issue under the mat.”
Cresswell told Cherwell: “Considering the overblown, and misrepresented, national coverage of Somerville’s overdrawn struggle to pass gender neutral toilets, you would think that the responsible parties in college might have actually read the motion being submitted.
“Instead, it is blindingly obvious that somewhere along the lines there has been a miscomprehension of what gender neutral actually means and someone has simply cobbled together some children’s shoe fastening material, and some remarkably gendered sheets of plastic, to pacify the ‘screeching’ minorities.”