Why you need to know about the gender-neutral bathroom debate

You might have noticed a lot of bathroom talk in the media lately. Concerts have been cancelled because of it,

You might have noticed a lot of bathroom talk in the media lately. Concerts have been cancelled because of it, celebrities have been weighing in on it, and teachers are up in arms about it. But why?

Going to the toilet is something most of us do without a second thought. Yet, for many trans people, using a public toilet often involves choosing between a space that either matches their gender identity or the gender they were assigned at birth. With that comes an increased risk of discrimination, harassment and even assault.

More than one million people in the United States have signed a petition promising to boycott the department store Target because it recently announced it would allow transgender people to use bathrooms and fitting rooms that correspond to their gender identity, not the gender on their birth certificate.

According to the American Family Alliance that organised the petition, the new bathroom policy would allow sexual predators much easier access to their victims.

The action follows a law passed by the state of North Carolina (the first American state to do so) requiring trans individuals, including students, to use only bathrooms that match their biological gender. This prompted a number of celebrities, including Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Bryan Adams, to stand up in support of transgender people and oppose the laws.

There are numerous studies showing how trans individuals are subject to harassment, sexual assault or other physical violence when they are required to use a gendered bathroom, especially in schools. The Williams Institute found that 68 per cent of participants in a survey on the topic were likely to experience homophobic taunts while trying to use a bathroom, while 9 per cent experienced actual physical violence.

In America 70 per cent of trans people reported being denied entry, harassed or assaulted when trying to use a bathroom.

In places like the United Kingdom trans people are legally allowed to use whichever public toilet they feel most comfortable in. In Australia, the forewarning of ‘bathroom intruders’ came in debates over the Safe Schools anti-bullying program.

Bathroom panic‘ is seen as the new focus in the progress of LGBT equality.

One of the key issues is the physical and emotional security of trans people. Those wanting to restrict people from using the bathroom of their gender identity feel they are protecting citizens from people who want to do bad things. However, there is no statistical evidence of violence that exists that would warrant such a response according to the Transgender Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Campaign.

By denying trans people access to safe toilet facilities could be seen as exacerbating their feelings of segregation, isolation and depression. The rate of attempted suicide in the trans community is significantly high with 46 per cent of men and 42 per cent of women trying to take their own life. A bathroom bill could have an even greater impact on the mental health of trans people.

You might think the right to choose a male or female bathroom is inconsequential, but there are wider issues at stake.

Share your thoughts on the issue.

  1. Angie B  

    I do think it is inconsequential! For heaven’s sake, leave these people alone, they have enough to deal with already. They are only going to the loo! Move on. There are ‘worse things happening at sea’ as my old Mum would say.

  2. Carolyne M  

    what about all the hetrosexuals who will have to deal with sexual predators…..Ooops sorry we don’t matter we are just the normal majority.

    • Susan Bell  

      Hetrosexuals already deal with sexual predators on a daily basis do you really believe all transgender people are going to the toilet to hassle you, no they need to pee. Go and learn something about gender issues. This is a problem in America, a country full of ignorant, racist, misogynists, religious crazies.

    • Robyn Green  

      So why are you making the leap that a transgender person is a sexual predator? Or allowing a young girl was born a boy but has been living and looking like a girl to go into a ladies toilet. Why will that mean you suddenly have to deal with sexual predators? You do know that sexual predators are already in our toilets don’t you?

  3. Anne Wolski  

    For goodness sakes, Carolyne M, they are only needing to use the toilet. You would be of little or no interest to them. In many places, the toilets are unisex so what the hell is the difference? Find something more important to complain about

    • dain  

      Maybe it is you that should get over yourself. Who wants their 8 year old son watching a female straddling a urinal because the stalls are full. Presumably, if they want the bathrooms of their assumed gender, then they also want to use the facilities as designed.

      • Anne Wolski  

        You are an idiot…I don’t know of a single person who would straddle a urinal…they would wait for a stall to become vacant just as any other decent human being would do

  4. Rose  

    Who will police it? and will you have to carry your birth certificate with youRself at all times?

  5. carol  

    Can I take another tack here? When taking a young child of the opposite gender to you to the toilet wouldn’t you feel safer if he/she was in the same one as you? I can remember taking my son to the toilet on occasion when he was about 6-8 yrs old and having to stand outside the male toilet waiting for him to re-emerge safely. there were no family toilets back then so I guess it is not as bad now. In many countries and many work places there is a trend towards shared ablutions and nobody is concerned (after the initial shock) as long as there are cubicles and urinals are not out in the open

  6. maszki  

    If you have to ask the question, then you do not understand the problem

  7. Kerry Crozier  

    I think what the concern is, is that pedophiles and predators will PRETEND to identify as another gender to gain access to the corresponding toilets.

  8. rob  

    The issue for me is that “my” rights are being attacked and the bully strategies of the LBGT strip me of any opposition lest be labelled a bigot or homophobe. If they have the junk use the men’s toilet. And don’t name the suicide rate on heterosexuals. How pathetic.

    • TG  

      I don’t think, just from casual observation, that the suicide rate of heterosexuals is anything like in the 40% or higher range. Have you noticed nearly half your hetero friends and acquaintances suiciding? No, neither have I. The reason the rate wasn’t mentioned is because the huge difference is obvious without quoting the figure for heterosexuals.

  9. Judith Leslye Talanoa  

    I would like to have it made very clear that the Safe Schools program for Victorian schools is NOT, please let me repeat, NOT an anti-bullying program. It is designed purely to teach our children & youth to be more accepting & EMBRACING of the LGBIT way of life.
    I fullu concur that there needs to be an anti-bullying program in our schools, because it is rife, but fat children, coloured children, shy children as well as LGBIT children are ALL suffering. Why can’t we teach our youngsters of all kinds to be kind & tolerant toward each other. Especially we need the teachers to be prepared to implement the Anti-bullying policies that are already in schools but NOT being implemented unless someone threatens to sue the school for allowing bullies to bully without being challenged.

  10. Well guess where the sex offenders will hang out? DBSBS
    It’s already ready a problem in lots of Male toilets

  11. Anne Wolski  

    If I’m busting to go, I really don’t care who’s in the next cubicle or what they have or do not have between their legs…get over it people. As far as sex offenders go, they will be around any toilet not just singling out DBSBS ones. For goodness sakes, you get on with your business and let these people get on with theirs. Just something more for discriminatory people to carry on about.

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