Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure
BELOW IS MY RESPONSE TO HM GOVERNMENT MINISTRY OF HOUSING, COMMUNITIES & LOCAL GOVERNMENT'S OPEN CONSULTATION [ESSENTIALLY, ON CONTINUING TO PROVIDE GENDER-NEUTRAL BATHROOMS IN PUBLIC PLACES]
Toilet Provision: Call For Evidence
The full title of this consultation published on the HM Government website fails to take account of the fact that there are many people in the United Kingdom who do not identify as either male or female. This alone gives cause for concern because it would appear the department has already reached a conclusion prior to any assessment of responses to the public consultation.
I respond to this consultation to present the case for retaining gender neutral bathroom facilities within public areas and that radical improvement is much needed in the provision of these facilities. I would also take the opportunity to correct serious general misunderstandings about the gender-neutral model of public bathrooms.
Neutral bathrooms afford privacy and safety to users and they are essential for people who cannot use gendered bathrooms.
I am one of several thousand residing in the UK that uses gender-neutral bathroom facilities where they are available. I am extremely alarmed that a government public consultation appears to implicitly call for their removal although I did note and welcome the following passage,
“As part of this review, the merits of any best practice guidance on the provision of a gender-neutral toilet, as part of a wider balanced mix of gender-specific male and female toilets – where space allows – will be considered, alongside the interaction with the necessary provision of access to disabled toilets.”
I wish to correct a false precept of the gender-neutral bathroom model that appears to have been influential in instances where there have been calls for their removal. In the next paragraph I describe the model proposed by me during a long engagement process with parliamentarians and the government where I had initially suggested uptake of the model moving forward. These discussions pertinent to neutral bathrooms where I was involved took place prior to and around the beginning of the previous decade.
Neutral bathrooms comprise a self-contained single lockable unit with toilet, mirror, wash basin etc. all contained within the cubicle unit. The neutral model affords privacy, safety and can be used by all. The adoption of a neutral model does not remove provision currently afforded to the gendered majority however does make provision for trans people, most notably to non-gendered trans people, who cannot comfortably and safely use gender-specific bathrooms with communal facilities.
A reduced capacity variation of the self-contained model has always presided in places with limited space such as aircraft and these facilities have always been neutral. A larger self-contained variation of the neutral model is commonplace for disabled users and for parents with babies.
Gender-neutral cubicles can operate typically within approximately 50% of the floor space of a standard disabled cubicle. I do not suggest that disabled units should be replaced with standard sized neutral units. Disabled use facilities are separate and should always be retained.
In recent years, as part of a far reaching and concerted attack on trans people by the mainstream media, I have seen a handful of reports that indicate women’s public bathrooms are being converted into mixed sex use with shared space for communal facilities. I am dubious as to the accuracy of these reports however reiterate that this scenario is neither the objective nor the desired outcome of those who call upon the government and local authorities for better gender-neutral provision.
Users such as myself who need access to neutral facilities are not to blame if there are instances where facilities are badly implemented if indeed there is any truth behind reports of men and women sharing mixed communal areas. I am disturbed by the suggestion, due to such misinterpretation or misreporting, that the government might conclude the provision of neutral facilities are not necessary and should be either reduced or phased out completely. The removal of gender-neutral bathrooms would leave people who define as neither male nor female unable to leave their homes for an extended period. A lack of appropriate bathroom provision would prevent people who define as neither male nor female from being able to work or study anywhere other than at home. I am sure the department would agree that to place persons in this position would be a fundamental breach of their civil and human rights.
The vision behind gender-neutral facilities was not – and never has been – that men and women should share communal facilities and spaces that were previously restricted to one gender.
My proposal is that neutral facilities comprising single self-contained units as previously described should lead to an overall phasing out of communal areas within public bathrooms. Communal areas lack privacy and they can be extremely intimidating places for people of no gender and trans people.
Today I find that, despite their publicised roll out within certain sectors, most commercial premises where public bathrooms are located still have no designated neutral facilities. I am often forced to use the disabled cubicle because it is the only alternative to gendered facilities which I am extremely reluctant to use and often cannot use. Sometimes the disabled facility is locked when not in use. In these instances I do not want to search for an official or staff member and then explain to them the reason why, as someone who is not disabled, I need to use the disabled facility.
The consultation description asserts that women suffer due to inadequate bathroom provision followed up with the strong implication in the next paragraph that the introduction of gender-neutral facilities have impeded on the provision of women’s spaces.
I ask that consideration is also given to those in my position who are often forced to use gendered facilities that feel inappropriate and can feel unsafe due to a complete lack of alternative provision.
Far from the phasing out of neutral bathrooms, I argue that there should be many more of them and that their introduction must be viewed as the provision of an essential public facility that affords total privacy and safety to sections of society who would otherwise be vulnerable in gendered spaces however neutral bathrooms have the additional benefit in that they can be used by all.
The long-term objective must therefore be to replace the intimidating and outdated gender-specific communal model with the roll out of a progressive neutral model that affords both privacy and safety to users within a single standalone cubicle unit.
NON-GENDERED – Fighting for Legal Recognition
05 January 2021
The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered