“All Gender Bathroom” initiative at Boğaziçi University yields its initial successful outcome!
Source: Ekin Keser, “BOĞAZİÇİ ÜNİVERSİTESİ’NDE CİNSİYETSİZ TUVALET PROJESİ SONUÇ VERDİ” (“All gender bathroom initiative achieves success at Boğaziçi University”), GZone, 11 February 2016, http://gzone.com.tr/bogazici-universitesinde-cinsiyetsiz-tuvalet-projesi-sonuc-verdi/
We first heard about this campaign in a press release on November 19, 2014, World Toilet Day. Signatures were collected, petitions were submitted, public forums were organized. Today, we talked to Beren Azizi and Görkem Ulumeriç of BÜ [Boğaziçi University – Trans.] LGBTI Studies Association about the “All Gender Bathroom” campaign, which officially yielded its initial successful outcome.
Could you start by telling how this idea came about, how you got started and when you first took action?
Beren Azizi: This idea emerged from analyses of the “violation of rights” that result from “deprivation.” Education is a human right, because everyone is equal; however in practice we see that things do not really work that way. LGBTI+ students drop out of their studies, do not come to school, they are depressed or “unsuccessful.” When you start asking what happened and what went wrong, you realize that places, where a fundamental right such as education is offered, are in fact filled with challenges and obstacles for the LGBTI+’s. Toilets, as we see from numerous scientific studies around the world, are one of those obstacles. Based on the feedback we received from LGBTI+ students, we realized that “All Gender Bathroom” is a right and we should demand it.
We took the first step on November 19, 2014, World Toilet Day. We sent out a press release. Of course, mental framework for this idea was in place long ago, in fact years ago.
Görkem Ulumeriç: LGBTI+ can face challenges while using binary gender bathrooms, changing rooms and dorm rooms. They either use the bathrooms while everyone is in class or never at all. We bring up such issues during the meetings of the LGBTI club and make it an active topic of discussion on campus. We organized forums, prepared banners, made press releases, wrote many pieces to the university’s Facebook groups. We submitted a petition with 400 signatures. The president’s office evaluated these inquiries and all gender bathrooms were already in place at the beginning of this semester.
Who supported you in this endeavor? What kind of institutional support did you have? How did you go about organizing around this issue?
BA: To begin with, I can say that we have “history/science/struggle” on our side; because the precedents provide us with tools/implications upon which we based the terms of our demand for this right. Above all, there is the LGBTI+ struggle, and even beyond that, there is the struggle for equality people have been fighting throughout history. In terms of institutional support, we had national and international LGBTI+ rights defenders standing by us. The university, like all universities, is divided between those who internalize the contemporary scientific paradigm and those who take up an orthodox approach. We faced “intellectual opposition” from those who, inwardly, have not able to come to terms with the contemporary paradigm, yet we also encountered those who unconditionally defend the necessity of preventing this abuse. CİTÖK [Boğaziçi University Sexual Assault Prevention Commission – Trans.] stood by us at all times without any reservations, our president Gülay Barbarasoğlu too has always been on our side.
The project has been approved. What’s next?
BA: To tell the truth, our goal is to continue to pursue whatever we have been aiming/pursuing prior to this. We are an association founded within an academic environment to provide scientific, cultural, social contribution to this campus life. Therefore, one thing is of paramount importance for us and that’s the “right to education.”
Especially, in countries like ours where economic development has not been fully realized, “education” is a determining factor in being a part of economic life. I mean, it does not only involve acquiring knowledge/culture, it also determines, put simply, your “bread and butter.” Inequality in access to education, LGBTI-unfriendly structure of academic environments are major problems.
Therefore, for us, changing this concept called “material condition” is as important as changing the perception/politics. This struggle encompasses various issues from dormitories to ID cards. Obtaining “concrete results” is the key to eliminate economic inequalities.
GU: We have other projects that aim to make LGBTI+ students’ academic life easier. We got promises out of certain foundations that may provide scholarships for LGBTI+ college students. We want our alumni to achieve the success they deserve with their strong presence and out identities. In addition, we aim to build an alumni network that includes Boğaziçi alumni LGBTI+’s, and organize events to bring them together.
In the last year, we covered a lot of distance at Boğaziçi. We founded an official student association, we hosted Boston Gay Men’s Chorus concert with an audience of three thousand attendees. We appreciate Boğaziçi University for supporting student projects.