What is a gender-neutral bathroom?

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A question on everybody’s lips? Probably not – but what is the deal with gender-neutral bathroom anyway?

Put simply, a gender-neutral toilet is one which can be used by a person of any gender or gender identity.

They can also be known as all gender bathrooms, and often carry a sign which reflects that people of all genders are welcome in the facility.

cartoon of trans person choosing a bathroom

What sign do you have on a gender-neutral bathroom?

Bathroom sign 'whatever'

Gender neutral bathroom signs sometimes include an amalgamation of the symbols usually shown on male and female bathrooms.

Some may even go further with text to say ‘all welcome’, or other symbols to show that they welcome members of comminutes that do not identify as male or female.

Why are gender-neutral bathrooms important?

Gender-neutral bathroom facilities can provide a safer and more welcoming space to someone who may be transgender or may not identify with the male or female gender binary, by which public restrooms are often divided.

This could make it easier for trans people at various stages of transition, or remove the pressure of a decision of whether to use men’s or women’s bathrooms, which can leave trans or non-binary people feeling stuck between two difficult choices.

Some even say they avoid using public restrooms entirely or already opt for single stall restrooms to avoid peeing in gender-segregated bathrooms.

Why do gender neutral bathrooms matter

Some people have hijacked the debate around trans bathroom to suggest that allowing transgender people to use a bathroom which fits their gender identity could lead to higher rates of child or sexual abuse.

There is no research to back this up and there are currently no recorded cases of somebody pretending to be transgender to gain access to a restroom to harass or abuse someone.

In fact it is more likely that a trans person would be sexually assaulted while using any bathroom, as research has shown that members of the trans community face disproportionately high rates of sexual assault in public restrooms.

Who is opposed to gender-neutral bathrooms?

States in the US such as North Carolina, and possibly soon Texas, have introduced legislation which would or has banned transgender people from using gender-appropriate restrooms in public if the bathroom does not fit with the sex assigned on their birth certificate.

North Carolina has repealed its bill, HB2, but in doing so banned local authorities from enacting laws to protect LGBT people.

Texas on the other hands seems adamant to pass a bathroom bill before its legislative session ends on Monday.

Sign opposing North Carolina's bathroom bill

This is despite the vast majority of bathrooms (think the loo in your house), already being gender-neutral.

Originally, female-only spaces provided a step forward for women in public, and before there were usually men-only facilities.

But other female-only spaces have mainly been condemned to history, and gendered bathrooms remain one of the only places divided by gender.

Isn’t it time that gendered public restrooms went the same way?