Campus / Featured / News / May 6, 2015

QUEST hosts first Sh*T-In for trans awareness

A handful of Knox students showed up to reflect on a week's worth of protest against the gender binary in bathroom labeling The "Shit-In" calls for gender neutral bathrooms across campus. (Sean Treacy/TKS)

A handful of Knox students showed up to reflect on a week’s worth of protest against the gender binary in bathroom labeling
The “Shit-In” calls for gender neutral bathrooms across campus. (Sean Treacy/TKS)

When freshman Alex Davis was waiting to be called for block housing last week, they tried to use the all-gender restroom in Seymour Union. When that one restroom was occupied, they had to walk to Alumni Hall just to use the restroom.

This kind of experience happens often at Knox, where there are only 12 all-gender restrooms. Last week, Queer Union for Equality and Societal Transformation, or QUEST, raised awareness and solidarity with trans and gender non-conforming individuals by hosting its first on campus “Sh*T-In.”

The event followed in the footsteps of San Diego State University, which held a Sh*T-In of its own in October.  Throughout the week, students were encouraged to use only non-gendered or “family” public restrooms on campus. The week-long event included activities like a dialogue about risks and dangers of speaking up and a walking tour of Knox’s non-gendered restrooms. Despite the hiccup of Flunk Day, the event was successful and encouraged solidarity with trans and gender non-conforming individuals, which was the purpose of the week.

Unlike San Diego State University, which only has 15 all-gender restrooms for its 33,000 students, Knox has 12 for its 1,420, which altered the overall purpose of the event.

“Although it’s better for us, it didn’t create the visibility where we have so few that people would be in a long line, so it turned into more of an awareness event than anything else,” said Davis, who’s also the president and co-founder of QUEST.

This alleviated prior concerns that the event would take away a safe space for trans and non-binary people on campus by making everyone wait in line together for the restrooms.

“It wasn’t like 10 people waiting for the restroom, which is what we were worried about,” freshman and secretary of QUEST Cas Gutierrez said.

Still, Knox does not have all-gender restrooms in SMC, Seymour Library or in the gym, which QUEST would like to see changed.

“Even the gym doesn’t have an all-gender restroom, so it’s problematic because it’s telling trans and non-binary people this isn’t a safe space for you, you can’t work out here,” Gutierrez said.

Founded by Davis and others this year, QUEST is still a fledgling group with an executive board comprised of mainly first years. To the members, this is empowering.

“It kind of feels awesome to be doing something awesome right as I’m getting here,” freshman and QUEST Treasurer Maia Noble said.

This is one of the major aspects that sets QUEST apart as a club.

“I know it’s definitely exhilarating, and I know in larger organizations first-years don’t always get a say in what happens,” Davis said.

Next year, the group hopes to hold the event with more funds and feedback from this year’s event.

“I think a lot of people came away from it like ‘wow this is what people have to go through every day,’ and that’s just on campus. If you leave campus there aren’t all-gendered restrooms at the Beanhive or anything like that,” Gutierrez said.

Kate Mishkin
Kate Mishkin is a senior majoring in English literature and minoring in journalism. She started working for TKS as a freshman and subsequently served as managing editor, co-news editor and co-mosaic editor. Kate is the recipient of four awards from the Illinois College Press Association for news and feature stories and one award from the Associated Collegiate Press. She won the Theodore Hazen Kimble Prize in 2015 and 2014 and the Ida M. Tarbell Prize in Investigate Journalism in 2014. She has interned at FILTER Magazine, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and WGIL radio and the Virginian-Pilot.

Twitter: @KateMishkin

Tags:  all-gender restrooms QUEST Sh*t-In transgender awareness

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Kate Mishkin
Kate Mishkin is a senior majoring in English literature and minoring in journalism. She started working for TKS as a freshman and subsequently served as managing editor, co-news editor and co-mosaic editor. Kate is the recipient of four awards from the Illinois College Press Association for news and feature stories and one award from the Associated Collegiate Press. She won the Theodore Hazen Kimble Prize in 2015 and 2014 and the Ida M. Tarbell Prize in Investigate Journalism in 2014. She has interned at FILTER Magazine, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and WGIL radio and the Virginian-Pilot. Twitter: @KateMishkin






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