Gender neutral toilets could be coming to some of London’s most famous sites, including the Barbican, Tower Bridge and the Old Bailey.
The City of London Corporation is carrying out a public survey to see what people think of changing access to facilities, including toilets and changing areas.
The survey is open to anyone, but must be filled in before 14th September 2018.
“We seek to be a leader in equality, diversity and inclusion”, the Corporation says, “we are actively working to tackle potential issues of discrimination and exclusion”.
“The issue of gender identity has relevance and importance for the work of a number of areas across the City Corporation, including open spaces, the Barbican Centre and Community & Children’s Services”.
Self identify gender
Only 8,000 people live in the City of London, but 400,000 people commute into the Square Mile, and ten million tourists a year visit
The survey says that the Corporation is proposing to let people self-identity gender and use whichever facilities they like, and “not asking service users to provide ‘proof’ of their gender identity”.
The Equalities Act in 2010 made it illegal to stop people using the toilet they identified as “theirs” if they had transitioned or begun to. In reality though, challenges, hostility and abuse continue and put many trans and non-binary people in fear of going to the loo in a public place.
So the survey asks whether the Corporation should go further, whether it should consider making facilities gender-neutral. And how gender-neutral facilities should be arranged? Should changing areas have individual cubicles? Do urinals need to be removed.
The question abut the urinals comes from their own bitter experience.
There was real controversy when gender neutral toilets were introduced to part of the Barbican in October 2016. The signs on the doors of the ladies’ and gents’ were changed, but the urinals stayed.
Some cis women argued that while anybody could use what had been the ladies’ there were few women who wanted to queue beside the urinals to use what had been the gents’. They complained that the traditionally long queue for the ladies’ loos had become even longer at the door of the gender neutral toilets.
A spokesperson for the Barbican said “we recognise that the way our gender neutral toilets are currently implemented have practical limitations”.
Winds of change
Across the rest of London councils will need to make sure that developers build gender neutral toilets into new public buildings, if the Mayor’s draft London Plan is adopted.
The latest draft of the plan doesn’t suggest turning making all public loos gender neutral, but says “where gender-specific toilets are provided, a gender-neutral option should also be provided wherever possible (in addition to unisex disabled persons toilets)”.
Picture Credits: Tower Bridge, Wikipedia commons, the comp is by us. The person toilet sign, Transnews.uk. Urinal ban comp, Transnews.uk adaptation of a pic from Wikipedia commons.