In this article we look at the issues surrounding the rising provision of Unisex toilets and it sets out our Policy Statement that trans women, trans men and those non binary should have the provision and availability to choose between both Single Sex and Unisex toilets in all locations. Our position remains that we categorically refute calls for any segregation of trans women from any Gender Appropriate Spaces. We also acknowledge that cis women should have the ability to choose which facility they use and that there exists a genuine issue of threat that comes purely from predatory cis men, and where there is a genuine threat this should not be ignored. Our article looks at the issues which led to our Policy Statement position. (note: this paragraph and other additional clarifications have been added to this article to assist to clarify any misunderstood reading of our original statement).
Whenever it comes to the socially and morally correct arrangements for public spaces, history has shown that society evolves as each new need is identified.
Public toilets are a perfect example.
The first public toilets, known as ‘Public Waiting Rooms’, date back to 1852 and due to the extreme levels of sex inequality throughout the mid-19th century, where a women’s place was deemed to be in the home. Consequently, it was considered there was no need to provide such facilities, men’s public toilets became the norm without similar facilities being provided for women. The History of Women’s public toilets stated as follows: ‘In Victorian Britain, most public toilets were designed for men. Of course, this affected women’s ability to leave the home, as women who wished to travel had to plan their route to include areas where they could relieve themselves. Thus, women never travelled much further than where family and friends resided. This is often called the ‘urinary leash’, as women could only go so far as their bladders would allow them.’
This had to change, and even though men fought for many years to resist the change, women were eventually provided with the separate facilities that were so clearly needed. It is worth noting this had nothing to do with any falsely made claims to do with safety or privacy concerns.
Another, and more recent major change in the history of public toilets, was the provision of separate Disabled facilities. Clearly, this was also needed, but it took time for the moral justification to result in the required financial investment, and now Disabled toilets are far more commonplace around the UK due to legislation to meet this need.
So now we find ourselves at the time of another change…the Unisex toilet.
There may be different reasons as to why this has now become more common, but I believe there is a clear connection to the issues created by the moral panic over the use of gender appropriate spaces by trans women and the pressure inflicted by those ‘Gender Critical’ to resolving an issue that never truly existed. Trans women have never been a threat or danger to cis women, but we cannot ignore the fact that the constant hateful narrative being given daily column inches in the UK media has created fear of a danger that simply does not exist.
Whatever the reason, new building constructions now include Unisex toilet facilities, and many existing female toilets have been converted to Unisex, this being primarily for financial reasons; rather than having to build a new toilet or convert a men’s toilet with urinals, by far the most cost-effective solution facing any public toilet owner is to convert a female toilet which already has separate cubicles and only has a need for the sign on the door to be changed.
So, the question is whether this new facility is truly needed and what impact it may have.
TransLucent will always fight for what we believe to be the right way forward for Trans rights, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore others if they are genuinely impacted, and as a feminist organisation, specifically Women.
Over the last couple of years (initially as Steph’s Place and now Translucent), we have highlighted many occasions where the Gender Critical have wrongly conflated the supposed rights of women with those of trans women, and the links below relate to two such articles which clearly expose such false claims of an invented impact on women:
However, we do not hide if women are potentially impacted in a negative way and believe it right to find the balanced solution that still protects all Trans rights.
For example, when it comes to women’s elite sport, we do not simply state that ‘trans women are women’ and therefore must be granted automatic entry. We support a sports policy that aims to achieve full inclusion, but agree that any issues where there are proven advantages gained at male puberty need to be fairly and safely addressed. We therefore acknowledge this would impact on the integrity of women’s sports and we fully support the need for fair and appropriate rules of entry that ensure inclusion, but also that unfair advantages are fairly and safely addressed. This is the position of the IOC and we do not disagree.
So, what are the issues regarding the use of gender appropriate toilets?
Why do Trans People need Unisex Toilets?
Safety is always a primary concern. There is no question that trans women, in particular, are experiencing ever-increasing levels of threat with ever increasing levels of hate crimes, and even though the majority are restricted to social media, and my own daughter has herself received a death threat online, sadly many experience physical attacks simply because of who they are.
For many trans women who have been through male puberty prior to their transitioning, the process of transition is not quick, and not all are confident in their outward appearance and live in fear of being outed every time they leave their home.
A 2015 USA study by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 8% of transgender Americans reported having developed urinary tract infections, kidney infections, and other kidney-related problems as a result of avoiding, or not being granted access to, the facilities. In another survey, the group DC Trans Coalition found that 54% of its respondents in Washington, DC reported physical problems from avoiding using public toilets, such as dehydration, kidney infections, and urinary tract infections.
When my own adult daughter was being assessed by the Tavistock Gender Clinic, one of the key issues they wanted to stress was that she understood her legal protection under the Equality Act 2010 to use female toilets as they themselves had experienced so many trans women unable to ever use public toilets when away from home and had inflicted serious internal damage on themselves. So even though the law is clear, there is so much misinformation and lies spread online that a high number of trans women are simply unable to live a normal life without the availability of Unisex facilities where they know their presence will not be questioned by other users.
It is very clear there is a genuine and justifiable humane need for Unisex facilities if required by any trans women, trans men or those who identify as non-binary.
But could Unisex toilets impact women’s safety?
The argument that those Gender Critical (GC) uses against GRA ReformGRA Reform Gender Recognition Reform Bill - Scotland https://www.gov.scot/news/gender-recognition-reform-bill/ Published 03 March 2022 09:34 Part of Equality and rights Simplifying how trans people apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. See Also https://mermaidsuk.org.uk/mermaids-manifesto-for-gra-reform/ https://www.stonewall.org.uk/what-does-uk-government-announcement-gender-recognition-act-mean (often referred to as Self ID by those GC) is the totally unsubstantiated lie that this would enable predatory cisgender men easier access into female spaces. The truth is that the level of danger does not alter in any way, and we have totally debunked and rejected these claims that are simply not based on truth, facts or evidence.
But what about Unisex facilities?
In this case there is belief that women do genuinely face potentially increased levels of danger. Data obtained through a Freedom of Information requestFOIR How to make a freedom of information (FOI) request You have the right to ask to see recorded information held by public authorities. https://www.gov.uk/make-a-freedom-of-information-request by the Sunday Times in this article suggests that unisex changing rooms are more dangerous for women and girls than gender appropriate facilities. This may be just one article claim, but it is not unreasonable to understand that if cisgender men are able to use Unisex facilities, then it is unquestionable that this includes predatory men that are having access. Unlike the disingenuous claims made about an invented threat in Gender Appropriate Spaces, this threat is genuine to both cisgender and transgender women. Predatory cis men would need to make a premeditated choice to enter a women’s toilet with intent to commit a crime, but Unisex toilets would give access to cis men who might not have entered with any ill intention, but it’s not unreasonable to believe a cis man of that nature could see an opportunity and act upon it. This is a threat that we do not believe we should simply dismiss.
I myself have experienced entering a Unisex toilet to be confronted by a lone woman just leaving. As I entered and our eyes met, it struck me the registering of fear in her eyes in the situation she encountered, knowing she was alone in a secluded place with an unknown man. As we repeatedly have stated, trans women are not a danger, but cisgender men are a genuine danger, and it was clear that my using a Unisex facility had caused a woman distress. It should be noted that there were only Unisex facilities in this location.
It is, therefore, clear to us that Unisex facilities increase the risk to women and can cause heightened levels of concern.
For these reasons, TransLucent.Org.UK takes the following feminist stance:
Our position is that four separate public toilet facilities should be provided: Female, Male (if the toilet contains urinals), Unisex and Disabled. As a separate safeguarding measure, we also campaign that all changing room doors should be lockable.
Unisex facilities are needed to ensure the health and safety of trans women who require them along with non-binary people, and Female toilets are needed to ensure the safety of both cisgender and trans women who need the provision of gender-assigned facilities that are not used by cis men. Where there is a Unisex toilet, a female toilet is also needed in the same locality, and visa versa.
Unlike those Gender Critical organisations, we do not believe that the rights of one demographic should be considered greater than another, and where there is a genuine overlap, both groups need a fair and safe solution. So to be clear, our position is that trans women are never subjected to any blanket bans or segregation and they must have the choice of whichever toilet is their individual preference. Trans & cis women and those non binary need the option of both Single Sex and Unisex toilets to ensure they have access to the one they are happy to use. We know that those Gender Critical will always have issue with any arrangement that allows trans women to use female spaces and they are never going to accept any arrangement we propose, but the law does not support their position and they have no legal right to harass or try to prevent trans women using any toilet facility. There may not be a solution that resolves every possible issue, but we believe our position provides for spaces that meet the needs of all those transgender whilst not impacting on any understandable claims of safety that women need in safeguarding from cis male predators.
When awareness was first raised that separate Disabled facilities were needed, the provision did not happen overnight, and we accept that this position will also take time to achieve – but the inability to achieve this immediately shouldn’t be a reason to not now campaign for four separate toilet facilities to become the acceptable norm.
TransLucent Policy Statement article by Paul