I recently wrote an article for a university committee on why we need gender-neutral toilets, based off an NUS toolkit. I thought I'd share this with you, as it's something I feel passionate about!
What are gender-neutral toilets?
Gender-neutral toilets are toilets and/or bathroom facilities which do not have gendered signage and which do not require the person using them to define into a gender. Rather than being unisex (both male and female), gender-neutral toilets assign no gender whatsoever to people using them. There are three main ways in which they can be installed:
- The Single Toilet Model, which is one or more single gender-neutral toilets with their own sink/hand dryers etc (similar to a disabled toilet);
- The Multiple Cubicle Model, a set of toilets without gendered signage. This can be done by putting in a new set of toilets entirely, or by changing the signs on a set of existing toilets;
The ‘Accessible’ Toilet Model, whereby the existing disabled toilet is changed into an ‘accessible’ toilet. These are accessible for disabled people and those who wish to use gender-neutral toilets.
Who uses them and why?
Anyone can feel comfortable using a gender neutral toilet! The idea behind neutralising the gendered signage is to make sure that everyone feels comfortable using toilets on campus. They can be used by anyone, regardless of gender, without fear of incident, discrimination or harassment. Often, a gender-neutral toilet is a positive choice for those with more ambiguous gender presentation or those who do not fit into the rigid categories of looking like a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’. People with a more ambiguous gender presentation can be subject to discrimination whichever gendered toilet they use, and therefore a gender-neutral toilet can provide a safer alternative to traditional male and female toilets. These people may or may not identify as trans, or as LGBT+.
Some trans people identify outside of the gender binary, and choose not to define their gender as either a man or woman. Having gender-neutral toilets ensures that these people will not be forced to choose the ‘best option’ toilet instead of one they actually feel comfortable with. Gender-neutral toilets are also helpful for carers and parents, or someone requiring accompaniment from a carer, that need to use a facility yet identify with different genders.
I firmly believe that installing gender-neutral toilets is a simple and very effective way to make Anglia Ruskin University more inclusive.