Why your university should have gender-neutral toilets

 

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The Independent Online

University is usually a time where young people can freely express themselves, a chance to escape the restrictions of home, and a place for all those quirky, artsy and misunderstood young adults to feel part of something. For the sporting heroes, the super academics and the dreamers – they all seem to have a place.

However, this freedom that so many identify with heightens exclusion for the forgotten. Dysphoria, depression, bullying, panic attacks, self-harm and thoughts of suicide are all parts of life for trans* people at university. The question is, why are so universities denying Trans* people what should be their right to gender-neutral toilets.

Trans* is an umbrella term used to include all gender-variant people. It can mean someone feels like the opposite gender to which they were born, or that they classify themselves as non-binary, neither male nor female, or even a mix of the two.

“There's a disgustingly high rate of trans* people who self-harm and attempt suicide, so universities should do as much as they can to ensure that all students feel comfortable in their campuses,” claims Harry, the trans* representative at the University of Westminster's LGBTI society.

Of course some universities have already taken this step – Manchester, for example, passed a policy to introduce gender-neutral toilets at a union assembly in 2008. It's been a great success, as a spokesperson from Manchester SU confirmed: “Members and visitors to the union have responded positively to the inclusion of gender-neutral toilets, and there have been no complaints to date”.

With no complaints at such a large and diverse university, why are so many still resisting this change? To me it’s naturally the next step for equality and liberation, something to show the trans* community they are not invisible to us.

The NUS LGBT briefing on gender-neutral toilets is also encouraging, providing evidence that even cost isn’t an issue. Universities are shying away from installing them when doing so could be as simple as changing signage.

“During my transition, like every trans* individual I was faced with the difficult decision of simply using a public toilet. I had to decide whether to face verbal accusations and insults in the female toilets or sexual harassment/assault in the male toilets, unless there was open access to the disabled toilets which was always the easiest option,” says Nicky, a student at Westminster.

The world is beginning to adjust and become more accepting of LGB lifestyles and rights. It’s now time for institutions to begin recognising the "silent" T. Students need to break this silence, raising this issue to our universities one toilet at a time.

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