In which I discuss the little things...

Eien Sykes Bidwell University of Wollongong, Australia


February 27, 2015

In Which I Discuss the Little Things That Make a Huge Difference

Wow. Its been a while since I have had internet access! So much has happened! There's so much I want to talk about: I went to a toga party, met my awesome Japanese roommate, explored my Uni campus, learned all this Australian slang, saw a koala, made so many friends! It's weird to say it, but the thing I want to focus on this week is bathrooms.

When I got to my residential college (dorms) I was offered a tour around the building so that I could get more comfortable with the set up. For some reason the bathrooms are between floors? Like, between the first and second floors, and the second and third floors. Also two unisex toilets on the first floor, I assume for guests? But the big thing here: ALL THE BATHROOMS ARE CO-ED. Everything is shared. Guys, girls, and everything outside the binary, sharing toilets, showers, sinks. And its not awkward! Everyone says “hi” to each other and walks around in towels, none of it is awkward and no one thinks it's weird. Or no one but the foreign students. I think this is the best thing though. Even though someone has spread around that I'm trans, no one really treats me differently. I mean, besides asking me questions a lot. But I feel so welcome and comfortable here. I feel safe in the bathrooms. No one gives me a second glance.

It's not the same on campus. On campus there's still separate toilets for guys and girls, but there's always a unisex/handicap bathroom in the same area. Or as I have found, in the art building that also houses the Queer Space, there is a singular just-unisex toilet. I haven't extensively searched through the Gym/Recreation/Aquatic Center but so far I've only seen a set of men's and women's locker rooms. That's not a huge deal to me because my residential college has its own fitness program, but I can imagine its hard for others.

I also found out from another student that there's an easy way to change your name on the professors' rosters. It took about 24 hours to be approved, but they had no problem adjusting it; so now I don't have to send out those awkward emails to each individual professor where I ask them to adjust my name. Like, before I came here I searched for information about queer and trans rights in Australia, and I found out that they were the first country in the whole world to allow a third gender option on passports. I didn't realize how different it was from America. At home people tell me how hard it is to adjust pronouns and change names, or they outright ignore my request, but here when I correct people they give a heartfelt and (kind of awkward for me) apology. I never really know how to react.

Its all a little overwhelming, I haven't even been at this school for a week, but everyone is so friendly and welcoming. I haven't even started classes yet and I'm already thinking about staying for a full year! Good bye America!