A planned petition by members of Waiariki's LGBTQ and the local Young Labour group is bound to divide opinion.

As reported today, the groups intend to collect signatures at Orientation Week to get a block of unisex toilets and labels on disabled toilets on campus, to make clear they are "all gender" friendly. The move was prompted by an incident where a transgender student complained of being harassed in a toilet and told they shouldn't be there.

To some this may seem an overreaction by a small group of people while others will have more sympathy for their predicament.

The reality is, unless we have been in that position, we don't know what it would be like to feel uncomfortable or unsafe while going about a necessary task such as using a public toilet.


Transgender issues were in the international spotlight last year, thanks to the very public transition of US former athlete and Keeping up with the Kardashians star Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner.

She was everywhere, bringing attention to the issues faced by transgender people.

Yet it takes more than watching an occasional episode of I am Cait (Jenner's new show) or reading a magazine article about her transition to be an expert on the challenges involved.

What everyone would agree on, I hope, is that no member of our community should have to feel unsafe or uncomfortable in their own city, their own place of study or workplace.

If the Waiariki LGBTQ members believe more unisex toilets or some labelling on toilet doors will make them feel safer, then it's a suggestion that needs to be taken seriously.

Waiariki, like Rotorua, is a diverse community that has always celebrated all its students. Let's hope a common sense solution can be found.