The City of Vancouver has an “exciting opportunity” to make its parks and recreation facilities more welcoming to people who transgress the gender binary, according to Drew Dennis.
Dennis, cochair of the city’s trans and gender-variant inclusion working group, told the Georgia Straight that the advisory body has delivered around 75 “realistic and reasonable” recommendations aimed at making parks, community centres, and swimming pools more welcoming of transgender and gender-nonconforming people.
“What we’re talking about is—10, 20, 30 years from now—trans kids of the future won’t confined by the gender limitations and constraints of today,” Dennis, who’s also a member of the city’s LGBTQ advisory committee, said by phone. “That’s particularly exciting for me.”
On Monday (April 28), the park board is slated to receive the working group’s 64-page final report, which contains recommendations dealing with public spaces, signs, programs, financial accessibility, literature, training, and partnerships.
Park board staff are recommending that commissioners direct them to establish a trans and gender-variant implementation steering committee, and to report back on progress within one year.
According to Dennis, over 1,000 people participated in the working group’s consultations over the past year. Dennis noted key recommendations include increasing the number of single-stall washrooms and the area allocated to universal spaces in facilities.
The report also recommends that the park board create “signage that states BC Human Rights Code at gendered change rooms and washrooms”, and use “function-based icons in signage rather than gendered figures”.
“The idea really is to move more towards what are you going to find in the room, what’s the function, what is it that you’re looking for in the room, and an indication that’s what you’ll find inside,” Dennis said.
Other recommendations—which come with implementation timelines ranging from three months to 10 years—include developing a trans and gender-variant inclusion policy, providing trans inclusivity training for staff, and increasing rental subsidies for community partners who offer trans-specific programming.
“Gender-segregated services and facilities can exclude trans* and gender variant community members if an inclusive approach is not taken,” the report states. “In these instances, trans* and gender variant individuals commonly face gender-policing in the form of verbal harassment, public-shaming and physical violence by others who feel they do not belong there.”
Dennis said the park board could introduce a trans and friends swim at Templeton Park Pool, as a pilot project, as soon as September.
Non-Partisan Association park commissioner Melissa De Genova told the Straight that she’s planning to vote in favour of the staff recommendation.
De Genova said she supports an “inclusive Vancouver for all”. However, she noted, the park board has heard from people who feel its washrooms, change rooms, and other facilities aren’t inclusive.
“That being said, any of the strategies or suggestions that are going to be implemented, I would expect that there would be thorough public consultation—just as we would have with any other aspect of a parks and recreation facility that we would be changing or implementing in our parks system,” De Genova said by phone.