The current battleground for bigots is the ‘gender neutral’ toilet. They are individual units with doors and walls that go floor to ceiling that any human can use. If you live with brothers and sisters or mum and dad, you are experiencing a gender neutral toilet. So, should gender neutral toilets exist? Yes, but not at the expense of women only toilets. The real question is not about who is using the loo but why we have so few toilets in public spaces.
Gender Neutral Toilets
Gender neutral toilets are usually found in coffee shops and are appearing more and more in restaurants and pubs. Moreover, as they are cheaper than providing two facilities, they are increasingly popular in hospitals.
So far, I can report positive experiences using gender neutral toilets. Insofar as the men in the queue let me go first. It’s my desperate look. However, gender neutral toilets should not replace men and women toilets altogether.
The problems with shared loos are some of those we experience at home. Individual somebody’s ‘sprinkle when they tinkle.’ At home, the culprit is usually identifiable, and we can hold them to account. Then there is the seat. Some leave it up when others need it down. It’s an altogether cold experience which on occasion can be wet. And too often my shoes are standing on a damp and sticky floor. Also after men leave the toilet, (they have no shame in what they share in public spaces), it is like chemical warfare.
So, you see, there are differences that are just a no-no for gender neutral toilets only.
There is a freedom with women only bathrooms, and I am not talking about safety issues (it’s transgender people who are more likely to be attacked in toilets) but the practical and the private. For being in a women’s only space is not just about the WC. It is the public area for washing hands, adjusting faces, bust, and bums. Women don’t want to be tucking in and pulling out in an area occupied by men. It is true we can adjust bras and thongs in the toilet cubicle, but there’s a queue to consider.
After all, women have more complex plumbing than men so take longer to wee. Not to mention Monthly’s, pregnancy and other bladder related issues such as Urinary Tract Infections which occur more in women. It all means that women go more often. It’s why there is always a queue at the women’s loo.
The Bogger Picture
But there is a distinct lack of public toilets in modern society. The Romans gifted us public toilets 2,000 years ago. However, over the last decade or so this civilizing cubicle has been disappearing. Councils have closed more than 1,782 public toilets. And some offer no public facilities at all. So, now it is not uncommon to see children (and men) peeing in public.
Pubs have let me use their toilet, and I have felt inclined to buy a drink afterward. And so the cycle begins again! But shops are not always willing to allow non-customers or children the use of their facilities. And rightly so.
Public toilets are about public decency and sanitation. We all need to use the toilet away from home and work. For women, it becomes more urgent because of biological needs.
So, with the ‘ladies’ already under pressure, we need Potty Parity for women. That means more toilets. Not sneaky moves like those at the Barbican that transformed women’s bathrooms to gender neutral units while leaving men’s urinals intact. Or selling public toilets for a million pound for trendy restaurants and homes. The gender neutral bathroom debate is an opportunity to discuss the acute lack of public toilets.
Gender neutral toilets are a fine idea, but they are not the solution to the fact that we simply need more toilets, especially for women.
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