Report tackles gender-policing at Vancouver parks and recreation facilities

Park board to vote on trans and gender-variant inclusion working group's recommendations

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.

The working group was formed after the park board voted unanimously in May 2013 to provide for “greater inclusivity” in its facilities.



No Child Poverty

Apr 22, 2014 at 5:10pm

I sure am glad that we have no child poverty left in BC, so we have plenty of spare cash to spend on this sort of stuff!

Ben Sili

Apr 22, 2014 at 6:51pm

If you feel more male, go to the Men's washrooms, if you feel more female go to the Women's. What is the big deal here? Do you require also special toilet paper while at it: one side blue, one side pink?


Apr 23, 2014 at 8:36am

This is a joke. right?

George Brissette

Apr 23, 2014 at 12:36pm

While the VPB is debating how washrooms should be inclusive portable washrooms at COV parks and facilities are not Fully Accessible for Persons with Disabilities or their caregivers.
The VPB has no policy requiring portable washrooms to be Fully Accessible yet the same outhouses are gender neutral if you're physically able to use them. The lack of a formal policy marginalizes those with Disablities and their families who would like to access COV parks, facilities or events for active or passive recreation but cannot run the risk of straying that far from home or staying out too long.
With an increasing population of persons with mobility challenges, some by age, some by injury, others with degenerative neuromuscular diseases that erode mobility and much more, how about ensuring that washrooms in COV parks, at playing fields, softball diamonds, farmers markets etc are Fully Accessible for all to use, is that too much to ask?.
Ten years without a Fully Accessible washroom at Nelson Park is far too long but at China Creek Park North it's been 35 years and counting since 4.15 acres of parkspace including the fieldhouse and it's washrooms were sold off and torn down.
Neither the washrooms or benches have been replaced at what remains at CCPN but thanks to the VPB the able-bodied are well looked after, apparently that's all that matters.

Well, there's always this...

Apr 24, 2014 at 5:36pm

@George Brissette, not sure if you're implying it is, but these two things (disabled access and gender neutral access) are not necessarily separate. There are those of us who are both disabled AND genderqueer, and personally, it is critical to me that spaces be both wheelchair accessible and gender neutral. One of the things that I like about these recommendations is that they specifically tie in disabled access. That means something.

George Brissette

Apr 25, 2014 at 4:49am

Of course washrooms should be fully accessible and gender neutral. I'm sure you've noticed that portable washrooms used in parks and at events are already gender neutral but at the same time inaccessible to those persons requiring a walker, wheelchair or scooter nor roomy enough to accomodate a caregiver. If you only have one good arm a manual door that opens the wrong way is also an obstacle just like handrails on only one side of a stairway and let's not forget those with vision impairments who also have the right to washroom facilities.
Last night over 100 able bodied people were playing soccer, softball, throwing frisbees etc at CCPN. The portable toilets are gender neutral but not fully accessible so the message to persons with disabilities no matter what gender they identify with is quite clear, stay home if you expect to need a washroom.

Totally get it

Apr 25, 2014 at 1:17pm

George, I totally get it, I live it in fact, daily. I understand and agree with what you're saying here, and I'm only adding that in many facilities things are still actually strictly gendered, and that that makes it incredibly hard to do what I and many others need to do and get out safely. Trans/gender-non-conforming and various disability access are not actually competing needs, and it would be amazing if more of us got together on these issues (similar to how the actual recommendations have done) and talked with each other about how we can help make these spaces safer and more accessible for all of us.

Hilarious signs

Oct 21, 2014 at 4:26pm

How wonderful: Trans People Welcome.

How about putting up signs that say Asians welcome.... even if they squat on the john putting their filthy shoes on toilet seats the rest of us sit on.... you're still welcome, Asians.

Babies welcome.... even if they stink and cry, their diapers are thrown everywhere, and their mothers take up way too much room in the bathrooms.... please, come on in, babies.

Diabetics welcome..... especially when hypodermic needles can go in a sharps container. We provide that just for you, diabetics!

How many specific groups of people are welcome on those signs? Why are we singling out trans* people? Do they not belong to the rest of society?