Gender Neutral Toilets: Fighting For Trans And GNC Rights

Almost half of Trans people (48%) do not feel comfortable using public toilets, as a result of verbal abuse, intimidation, and physical assault. After the Government's opening of consultation for toilet provision for men and women, we need to speak up in support of gender-neutral toilets.

The Government has recently opened a consultation into toilet provision for men and women and is now calling for evidence for a technical review.

The consultation states that the Government’s view is that there needs to be ‘proper provision of gender-specific toilets for both men and women, with a clear steer in building standards guidance’. This is a direct attack on transgender and gender non-conforming (GNC) people’s basic human rights, due to the removal of important gender-neutral toilet facilities that provide safe spaces.

The number of gender-neutral toilets available in public spaces and buildings in the UK is already very low, with this consultation looking to further reducing this in order to increase the number of women-only toilets available. It is really important that we all speak out to support the protection of gender-neutral toilets, which serve as an extremely important safe space for the transgender community, as well as those who identify as non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming and those who require assistance including disabled people, and children.

Almost half of Trans people (48%) do not feel comfortable using public toilets, as a result of verbal abuse, intimidation, and physical assault (LGBT in Britain Trans Report, Stonewall UK, 2018), and therefore rely on gender-neutral toilets to provide a safer alternative.

The consultation also states that ‘women need safe spaces given their particular health and sanitary needs (for example, women who are menstruating, pregnant or at menopause)’. This statement directly excludes the experience of trans men, intersex people and GNC people who menstruate/are pregnant/at menopause.

We want to encourage you to engage with difficult and complex topics on a national level, and this is your chance to do just that in a direct and impactful way. It’s important for all of us to be engaged citizens – politics and governance affects all of us, and we should always strive to be as involved as we can be.

What can you do?

We are asking you to respond to the open consultation, via email at toilets@communities.gov.uk, based on the needs of trans and GNC people across the country, and at Royal Holloway. If the policies proposed in the consultation are approved, this may impact the provision of gender-neutral toilets at Royal Holloway.

If you would like a template to aid your response, you can use the one below from We Exist London:

Email template

Statement from LGBT+ Collective:

"This consultation is a clear attack on transgender people, gender non-conforming people, and the entire LGBTQ+ community and we encourage students and other members of the community to respond to this consultation as quickly and directly as possible."

Statement from Disabled Collective:

"The Disabled Students' Collective recognises the discrimination faced by many transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people. We continue to stress the importance of providing services and public spaces that accommodate and respond to the needs of a diverse population. Any attempt to erode such provision - even in response to the needs of other majority or minority groups - is reprehensible and threatens societal cohesion, by placing the needs of one group in unnecessary conflict with another, to the detriment of potentially vulnerable people, placed at risk."

Statement from LGBT+ Society:

"It must be taken into account that the basis of the Conservative Governments statement/consultation is that while gender reassignment is a protected characteristic, gender-neutral toilets are not included in that protection and that individuals who have not had or are intending to have their gender legally changed are not being counted as included under that protection.

"Considering the difficulty in transitioning in the UK, the non-recognition of nonbinary genders, and the extensive paperwork required for legal recognition in the UK of a binary identifying trans person's gender, gender reassignment is not by itself an adequate characteristic. Gender-neutral toilets provide an oversight assurance for individuals who otherwise would not be able to carry out basic bodily functions."

"The UK has been consistently behind other European nations on the issue of Transgender, Nonbinary and Gender Non-Conforming rights. Recently the Minister for Women and Equalities scrapped the long-awaited Gender Reform Act, which serves as a significant barrier for transitioning people across the UK.

"Transgender people must currently undergo a dehumanising process in which obtaining a gender recognition certificate requires their partner's permission, going before a board and £140. This is on top of £75 for a new passport following a name change prior to undertaking this process, and £75 for a new passport after undertaking this process.

"Currently, the UK does not legally register nonbinary genders legally, and thus protections for nonbinary people are difficult to enforce. Strict male/female bathrooms would severely endanger nonbinary people.

"Access to gender clinics is at a critical stage, as funding has not increased to keep up with demands and many gender clinics have been shutting down. Additionally, the access of puberty blockers for under 16's now requires a court hearing, which has made obtaining these blockers virtually impossible despite their high success rates and already low prescription rates.

"Waiting times for gender clinics now stretch from two to five years on average, and receiving a favourable diagnosis is difficult due to the high scrutiny placed on gender clinics primarily by opponents of Trans-Healthcare, and severe underfunding. Once accepted, Trans and NB patients will typically have only two meetings in three years, requiring an egregious two years of living out experience in their preferred gender before any medication is provided, including puberty blockers. Where previously Gender Counselling was provided, this is now an impossibility.

"These factors must be taken into account within the toilet consultation, which must be taken within the greater context of anti-transgender legislation (or lack of legislation) that exists in the United Kingdom, which serves only to exacerbate an issue already at a critical point. Discrimination and high prejudice towards Transgender and Nonbinary individuals have increased to an unbearable position under the current conservative administration, and most of us feel that our backs are against the wall. If toilet legislation is passed, we will effectively be barred from participating in the workplace or going out further than our house for any purpose. There is not much more that can be done from here to hurt us.

An attack on one group in our community is an attack on us all."

Final Thoughts

We sincerely hope you use the above template to respond to the consultation in support of trans people at Royal Holloway, and across the country. The future of trans folk and GNC people depends on the work of allies to ensure that their voices are heard. We need to continuously amplify the voices of those who face discrimination in their lives, and we need to do so with vigour, and with certainty.

Remember, the deadline for filling out the consultation is Friday 26 February.