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Gender Neutral Loos

Aug 30, 2012 by     7 Comments    Posted under: Span That World

This article was written after a debate on the DF Facebook page.

 

Hello everyone! It’s time to discuss the tricky issue of toilets. Everyone uses them everyday, and most people don’t have to think too much about it. But for some members of our community, the regular trip to the bog can be a torturous dilemma.

 

I am one of those people. I am a FAAB (female assigned at birth) genderqueer. This means that although when I was born they all shouted “it’s a girl”, I am NOT a girl. I prefer the pronoun “they” to “she”, and sometimes I wear dresses, sometimes I wear boxers. It depends.

And it’s kinda tough. Everything in the world seems to be binary gendered. When I go shopping, I have to choose from Men’s wear or Women’s wear. When I go to a ceilidh, I have to choose to dance as a man or a woman. And when I need to wee, I have to wee as a Gent or a Lady. And this makes me sad. Because I’m not a man or a gent or a woman or a lady. I’m me.

Which is why I proposed that someone proposes the motion at the next DF Althing that DFs should try to make it a bit easier on us trans* folk by designating toilets at DF events gender neutral. And this was met with some resistance. So I’m go through arguments against this motion, from a trans* perspective, and hopefully open some minds?

But I don’t want to get changed/wee in front of boys/ girls!”

But why don’t you want to? If it’s because the opposite gender might be attracted to your body type, then I have news for you. Not everyone is straight. People who identify as the same gender as you might find you attractive too.

Similarly, if you don’t want to because you don’t want people with a different body type to you in the same bathroom as you, then you’re ignoring the existence of transgender people, who might identify as male but have a vagina, or might identity as female and have a penis.

Also toilets, even toilets with urinals in, usually have stalls in so if you really are uncomfortable for whatever reason you can always have privacy.

 

But men pee on the seat!/ But the other genders’ toilet is dirtier!/But girls are cleaner! Etc”

Wow. This argument is flawed in so many ways. For starters, gender stereotyping, saying things like women are tidier than men doesn’t help anyone. I’ve cleaned toilets for a job before, and neither of them were noticeably cleaner than the other (actually, usually the women’s toilets were a bit messier, but that was mainly because the baby changing facilities were in there, but that’s an anti-partiarchy debate to be had at another time). People with vaginas can pee on the seat as well, having a penis doesn’t mean you can’t wipe the seat when you’re finished.

Isn’t it really patronising to men to say that they can’t pee right? Have more faith in your fellow Woodcraft members!

 

Is it really an issue?/ But there aren’t any trans* people at this event!/”

In short, YES it is an issue. I may not be a DF any more, but there might be some DFs who aren’t ‘out’ about their trans* status, and this small change would make them feel a lot more comfortable at DF events. And even if there aren’t any people who identify as trans* in DFs at the moment, then having this written down in the Standing Orders would be a way to show people how inclusive DFs is, and how willing they are to help people feel happy at events.

 

But some cisgendered people might feel uncomfortable!”

Ever wonder why there aren’t Straight Pride marches? Or a White History month? That’s right! Because every day is those things. It’s the same with cisgendered people. The whole of society is built around catering to their needs. Let’s let non-binary people have a turn to be considered.

 

But can’t people who identify as male use the male toilets and people who identify as female use the female?”

This argument is still thinking within a binary. There are people who do not identify as either male or female, and so would be uncomfortable using a gender designated toilet.

 

But DFs don’t care about these things!/ But DFs do that anyway!”

This is the argument that confuses me most. If you don’t care, what’s the big deal? And it’s true, at DF events you will usually find a man in the ladies or a woman in the gents and people don’t usually care. It’s just when it comes to officially codifying this people seem to have problems.

 

But the sites we use have gendered toilets!”

True. But. Signs can be made and put over the pre-existing toilet signs which instead of ladies and gents say “Toilets” and “Toilets”, or “Toilets with stalls” and “Toilets with Urinals”. This would make them gender neutral and inclusive.

 

But safeguarding!”

To my knowledge as a member of Woodcraft Folk Standing Orders, there is no safeguarding issue involved in gender neutral toilets.

They are becoming increasingly popular in school buildings  across the country because they have been shown to reduce incidents of bullying in primary and secondary schools. They are also becoming common in students’ unions- please don’t let the NUS become more progressive than Woodcraft!

The Woodcraft Folk Safeguarding policy can be found here

 

 

Oh yes, I promised puns. Here you are then,

So you see, this isn’t something to poo-poo about. Let’s wipe away discrimination and help stop people feeling crappy! Sorry for kicking up a stink and dumping all this on you,but I didn’t want this issue to float on by. Let’s hope this article won’t tank. I’ll be bowl-ed over if people like reading this.

 

I like these puns! I’m on a roll!

 

I hope DFs read this and it sparks a debate- hopefully you will be flushed with success!

That’s me over. I’m pooped. I hope people don’t think I’ve done a half-assed job.

XOX Billig

Glossary of Terms

I realise I’ve used some terms here some people may not be familiar with. So here’s a guide to the terms as I’ve used them.

Gender- Gender refers to your identified gender, whether you feel you are male, female, both or neither.

Sex- Sex refers to the biological characteristics of your body.

Binary- Binary here means the idea that people are either male or female, one or the other. Non binary identities include genderqueer, genderfluid, nongendered or pangendered.

Cisgender- Someone whose gender identity is the same as their biological sex.

Gender neutral- Something that avoids distinguishing people by their genders.

Genderfluid- Someone whose gender identity changes, or someone who moves between gender identities.

Genderqueer- Someone whose gender identity is non-binary in a nonspecific way.

Non-gendered- Someone who does not identify as any gender.

Pangendered- Someone who identifies as all genders.

Transgender- A transgender person is someone whose biological sex is not the same as the gender that they identify as.

Trans*- In this word, the asterisk represents the fact there are many different trans identities.

 

Further reading

Cisgender Privilege

Trans 101

Toilet training Documentary

An illustrative comic

 

  • chris

    There is another argument for the need for safe spaces. Often women’s safe spaces. How do you feel that fits this discussion?

  • Gina

    This is a great argument. I didn’t really know about all of this and hadn’t thought about how difficult it could be for people who don’t identify as a certain gender. Education is the key. Now I know about this, I’m definitely going to support it! 

  • Louise

    We aim to have safe spaces available at all our events that aren’t loo based. Not currently women only ones, but always ones that can be made women only should a woman want one. At last DF Camp these were just some extra small tents we brought along, so whoever needed the safe space could make it what they needed, with help from MEST-UP reps of course.

    When there are other safe spaces around, does the loo need to be one? I can see how the loo can be a more casual safe space, if that’s a thing, but I think other places could be used as a casual “getting away from people” space.

  • emzconnor

    i don’t think i was ever unsupportive of anything to do with this issue, but i’d like to thank you for writing this as it made (i think) most of us more aware!

  • Sam

    I’ve just come back from Catalunya in Spain (Barcelona country), and quite a few of the loos there in bars, museums and restaurants are gender neutral. For example, in one bar each cubicle had a toilet, urinal and basin inside it. It’s less exclusive, and queues are shorter.

    We should be proud of how progressive Woodcraft is on gender equality, including being really ‘on it’ with the important safe spaces, and proper accessible peer mediation. Let’s not be outdone by the NUS. It is such an easy fix to keep up our high standard of gender equality by putting up an A4 sheet reading “toilets” or “toilets with urinals” over signs saying “Ladies” or “Gentleman”.

    In regions where it’s the norm, it works. Let’s have a bit of social change.

  • chris

    More than answers my question.

  • Becca

    This is a wicked article. Although I must say that the NUS is miles more progressive than Woodcraft in terms of fighting for the liberation of oppressed groups.

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