Gendered Intelligence: Understanding diversity in creative ways

All gender toilet signs

Why Are All-Gender Toilets Important?

Everyone should have access to a toilet they feel able to use safely.

However, the LGBT in Britain - Trans report (Stonewall 2017) showed that 48% of trans people don’t feel comfortable using public toilets.

This means that many trans people, when outside their homes, are faced with a choice of using toilets where they don’t feel safe or welcome, or going home before they need to use the loo. Alternatively, they may not eat or drink all day so they don’t have to go.

This is because gendered toilets (the typical gents / ladies binary configuration) aren’t welcoming for people who don’t fit visual gender norms. Anyone, whether cis or trans, whose appearance doesn’t fit our stereotypes of what a man or woman looks like is often challenged or questioned in such spaces, sometimes facing hostility as a result:

“I was physically assaulted by two women as I attempted to use the bathroom in a bar. They began pushing me and shouted that I was in the wrong bathroom and pointed out that this was the ladies’ bathroom. I told them that I knew which bathroom it was and I was in the right place, but they persisted. Since then I avoid public toilets whenever possible.”
Abebi, 34 (Scotland) - Stonewall LGBT in Britain – Trans Report, p10

In particular, people with a non-binary gender identity aren’t included by a binary system and feel erased by and / or unsafe in both binary toilet options:

“I need to feel sure that when I walk into a gendered space, other people will assume I've chosen the correct space for my gender identity and I won't face physical or verbal violence… I need there to be a neutral option.” Non-binary participant in a Gendered Intelligence survey

The good news is that toilets can be made much more welcoming, by making sure there is all-gender / universal provision available.

All-gender toilets have been standard on planes and trains for a long time and in many coffee shops and similar places as well – it’s nothing new. And of course, we all have them at home!

Free to Download Signs

Gendered Intelligence provides signs which you can download, print and use as temporary signage for toilets.

These signs can be used when you are hiring an external venue and want to set a higher standard of inclusivity for the toilets. Using these signs can also be a good way to start a conversation with venues about their facilities and promote trans inclusive practice.

The idea behind these signs is that they give people information about what the facilities are (e.g. stalls or urinals) while making clear that they can be used by people of any gender. You might choose to put these signs on all the toilets in your venue, or just on some toilets while also designating other toilets as gender-specific. These signs are a suggestion and are not the only options for trans inclusive signage.

You might want to laminate the signs, and keep some spares in case they get removed.

Permanent Changes

If you are looking for more permanent signage for your own facilities, there is a wide variety on the market, including ones to redesignate accessible facilities as gender neutral and accessible. Redesignating accessible facilities isn’t an ideal solution, but it can provide an interim step where you are not (yet) able to bring in other all-gender options for any reason.

Here is a link to several inexpensive examples: https://www.virodisplay.co.uk/collections/gender-neutral-toilet-signs (Many under £10 as at Feb 2019)

Communication

When updating signage / changing facility use, it’s really important to communicate clearly with users regarding what’s changing and why, and to listen and respond to any questions people may have.

The reasons why people who don’t fit visual gender norms experience questioning or hostility in toilets are typically to do with perceived issues around safety and privacy. These are common reactions rooted in misunderstanding of trans people and gender diversity, which may need to be addressed before all-gender provision can be successfully implemented.

Further Support

If you would like training or consultancy on how to improve the trans inclusivity of toilets, or any other aspect of your organisation, please don’t hesitate to mail training@genderedintelligence.co.uk. More information about our consultancy offering can be found on the consultancy page and about our training services on the training page.

If you have feedback or questions about using these signs, please get in touch through our contact form.

Notes on some terms used

Cis – short for ‘cisgender’ - a term that may be used by people whose gender identity and gender expression align with their assigned sex / gender. Sometimes thought of as the opposite of trans.

Non-binary - a term that may be used by people who don’t subscribe to the gender binary, and who may regard themselves as neither male nor female, or both male and female, or outside/beyond gender, as having no gender, or as having another experience of gender.


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