Sorry, but transgender toilets wouldn't make the House of Commons any better

There is no need to waste taxpayers’ money on transgender loos - because transgender people don't want them. So let's look at some real issues when trying to make the place more 'gender sensitive'

Katie Glover
Monday 09 November 2015 14:19
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John Bercow is trying to make the House of Commons more 'gender neutral' and 'gender sensitive'
John Bercow is trying to make the House of Commons more 'gender neutral' and 'gender sensitive'

Imagine for a moment that you are a nice Polish person, visiting the UK on a cultural exchange or maybe just for a holiday. After lunch at a posh hotel one day, you decide you need to use the loo and are astounded when some official says “Sorry, you can’t use that one. You’ll have to use the Polish loos. Yes, that’s right, the Polish loos we’ve set up specifically for Polish people. They’re exactly the same as the regular loos, except they’re for you Poles. To make you feel more included in the English system.”

A scenario like that would undoubtedly be deemed unacceptable by both Polish visitors and by the public. And it would raise one very simple logical question: how exactly can you make someone feel more included by giving them a separate space?

All of this makes me wonder how, in this day and age, someone as intelligent as the Speaker of the Commons might think that having special toilets just for transgender people would be a good idea. Just like reports in 2013 that Sussex University was planning to build three types of toilets (men, women and transgender) to make ‘all students feel welcome’, I can’t help but smell a rat.

John Bercow has apparently hired an expert to come up with ideas for making the new, refurbished Houses of Parliament more ‘gender-sensitive’ and ‘gender-neutral’, and this transgender toilets suggestion was one of the less palatable ones speculated about by the media over the weekend. Now, if you were a Speaker who needed advice on transgender issues, who would you turn to? A transgender organisation, perhaps? A focus group of transgender people? No, come on, that would be too easy. The Speaker has reportedly hired an academic called Sarah Childs, who’s a professor of gender and politics at the University of Bristol.

Let me help a bit if I can, as a real life transgender person, in the hope that Sarah is reading this. The point is that after having been through hell for years or even decades, becoming the gender they want to be often in the face of huge prejudice, trans people just want to be left alone to be that gender and not be ushered into some trans-only loo when they need a pee. When Sarah comes in to bat for us, I hope she leaves ideas like these firmly where they belong: outside serious political discussion.

Trans people want to be treated normally, not differently. So, to put it bluntly, there is no need to waste taxpayers’ money on transgender loos - because transgender people don't want them. Male-to-female trans people want to use the Ladies, and female-to-male trans folk prefer to use the Men's. This is because they really, genuinely are women and men, rather than some weird untouchable hybrid.

Of course it could be that these TransLavs would only be installed to allay the fears non-trans politicians who think they might feel a bit uncomfortable weeing in the same room as a transgender MP. In which case, these people need to close their trans loos and open their minds. Just a thought.

“Order, order - we didn’t mean to necessarily build special loos just for trans people!” I hear him bellow from his big green chair in reply to this article. “We only want to make the loos more trans-inclusive!”

OK, so how to you go about doing that, Mr Speaker? What is it about toilets that transgender people need which ordinary muggles and Right Honourable muggles don’t? Er, it’s nothing, isn’t it? Yes, now I think about it, it’s nothing at all.

Transgender men are men and transgender women are women, and that’s how they should be considered. No special favours, no airs and graces, no new versions of segregated toilets. They’re just ordinary people and that’s how they want to be treated, with the same dignity that you would afford everybody else.

You really don’t need a PhD in Gender Studies to work that one out, John – trust me.

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