I was just a teenager when I began swimming at Hart House, a University of Toronto athletics facility. My dad was a member and he would take my sister and I to do laps. To get into the locker rooms, there were no controls, no cards, no desks and no questions. My dad would turn left down a hallway into the men’s and we would turn right and go into the women’s. We would meet at the pool, and other patrons did the same.
When they finally put a little desk up in the corridor to control entry into the women’s change room, it wasn’t to keep teenagers out. It was, as I recall, because men had been found sneaking into the women’s lockers. Now, my sister and I would walk by a desk with a bored student sitting there, deliberately controlling for only one thing: our biological sex.
Fast forward to today’s “Change Room Project“, an art installation in the same hallways and locker rooms of Hart House that seeks to enhance safe spaces on campus by diminishing the differences between the biological sexes. The exhibition, which I experienced recently when I went for a swim at my alma mater, is a collection of quotes describing the vulnerability LGBT people feel in locker rooms.
Statements like the following are hung on the walls of the locker rooms:
- “If you’re questioning the gender of someone in the washroom, don’t. They know better than you. They should be here.” Andrew, Trans-Male, undergraduate student.
- “The locker room is an uncomfortable place, for sure. There’s a lot of tension between how our bodies really look and the idealized image that appears in the media. You’re vulnerable.” Stacey, Lesbian, Personal Trainer, Undergraduate Student.
Tension and feeling out of place are certainly unpleasant. That said, a couple of points spring to mind. […]