In recent years, it seems that there is a political argument concerning almost everything in society and appears this is unlikely to change. However, I may be the first to admit that I never thought going to the loo would become a subject for political discussion. After all, it is a basic human right and at the end of the day, you walk in, do your business and walk out. But alas, the day has come where there is the need to talk about the matter of gender neutral toilets. So why can we not just move past the idea that they are just toilets for anyone and everyone. Why can’t we just call them toilets? Not male toilets, not female toilet, not gender neutral toilets. Just plain and simply ‘toilets’, because that is what they are; toilets – doing exactly what they were made for, letting everyone pee. The Gryphon explores the introduction and importance of gender neutral toilets on campus and further afield.
Genders that exist outside the binary have steadily risen in the UK and across the world in recent years, although there is evidence to suggest that they have been around in our culture for many years. Politically, people who fall under the ‘trans’ umbrella are not often acknowledged, and even with the LGBT+ movement, they face discrimination. Simple things that we take for granted like being called by the right pronoun or name, and using gender specific bathrooms are not always straight forward for people who either don’t identify with a gender, or have changed their gender assigned at birth.
“The gender neutral toilets also send a much deeper message about inclusivity, which hopefully will be felt throughout the LGBT+ community across campus”
After long debates and controversy both outside and within the trans community, there has been a rise in the installation of gender neutral toilets that are designed to help transgender and non-binary people feel safe and comfortable when going to the bathroom. Personally, it is saddening that it has come to society needing to create gender neutral toilets because in an ideal world, it would be great if we could all just use the toilets we wanted to use without feeling physical, sexual or verbal harassment? At the same time, whilst fully understand the need for them, and also realising the anxieties that some people feel towards them.
If you have not noticed already, gender neutral bathrooms have been popping up around The University of Leeds campus in places such as Roger Stevens, The Michael Sadler Building, The Worsley Building and The Union. These toilets are important for non-binary people, who might feel that they do not fit in either the male or female gendered toilets. The gender neutral toilets also send a much deeper message about inclusivity, which hopefully will be felt throughout the LGBT+ community across campus. Going to the toilet should not make people feel nervous or worried and gender neutral toilets remove the anxiety from non-binary people who feel uncertainty about which bathroom to use.
“Historically, segregated bathrooms have been used to oppress marginalised groups, with most toilets being designed for men”
There are plenty of reasons why all toilets should be gender neutral. Gender neutral toilets make life easier for all families, meaning that parents do not have to leave their children with other members of the family or friends when going to the bathroom, and if nappy changing units were in all toilets then it would save dads having to leave it up to the mums. Historically, segregated bathrooms have been used to oppress marginalised groups, with most toilets being designed for men. It was only in 1739 that the first segregated bathrooms for men and women were made. More importantly, gender specific toilets cause stress for parents of children who do not conform to a traditional gender and this will cease to exist with gender neutral bathrooms. For those who are in the closet or have not decided on their gender identity, all-gender bathrooms remove the conundrum of deciding which toilet to use. Additionally, if all toilets were unisex then there would be shorter wait times for women. This may seem like a selfish thought, but it is true. Cis gendered women often have to go to the toilet more (and take longer) than men because we have to sit down to pee. On top of that, cis women have to deal with menstrual hygiene. Ultimately, the most important reason for gender neutral toilets is that everyone should feel safe and comfortable when going to the toilet.
I am really proud that our university is sending a clear message that we have an inclusive and diverse campus. Hopefully, in the near future we will see more and more gender neutral toilets pop up both on campus and around the country on our journey to inclusive bathrooms.
[Image: Bella Davis]