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Why gender-neutral toilets are so important to transgender people

Using a public toilet for most people is not a big deal. But for transgender people, it can be complicated and it can be very dangerous.

Trans people often experience derogatory remarks and dirty looks, as well as bodily harm, when they use public toilets.

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission: "Trans people face discrimination at every level. Existing evidence suggests that transgender people experience, and are badly affected by transphobia in a wide range of forms. This includes bullying and discriminatory treatment in schools, harassment and physical/sexual assault and rejection from families, work colleagues and friends."

The commission conducted a survey which revealed that 62% of respondents "had experienced transphobic harassment from strangers in public places who perceived them to be trans", and that a majority "had faced harassment in public spaces" which included threats, negative comments, physical, verbal abuse or sexual abuse in public. "Tackling transphobia must be a priority,” the report concluded.

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Happy Transgender Day of Visibility. Today is a day for celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide. 🌍 Although I am not trans I do support transgender and think the world needs to be taught more so that people will understand. This is a day to be empowered and give the recognition trans folks deserve!  #happytransgenderdayofvisibility #transgenderdayofvisibility #transgenderday #raisingawareness #standtogether #strongertogether #empowerment #support #supporteachother #loveeachother #transdiscrimination #transgenderdiscrimination #lgbt #lgbtequality #lgbtireland #irishlgbt #lgbtworldwide #lgbtsupport #lgbtawareness #lgbtpride #beyou #beproud #loveall #loveislove #loveisequal

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On the 1st December 2016, British Labour Party politician Caroline Flint used parliament’s momentous debate on transgender rights to assert that gender-neutral toilets put women at risk.

Flint said she welcomed the discussion saying, that “we also need to be mindful of creating neutral-gender environments that actually may prove more of a risk to women themselves”.

She justified her statement by shedding light on the conviction of student Luke Mallaband, a 23-year-old man who was caught after secretly recording women undressing and showering at locations around the University of East Anglia in Norwich in 2016.

He was given a curfew and a community order and banned from all female and gender neutral public toilets for three years.

SNP leader John Nicolson backed Flint’s concerns saying: “the point that has just been raised is a matter for criminal law. This has nothing whatsoever to do with transgender equality.”

In a Guardian article published in December 2016, Paris Lees admitted to being one of those women who are afraid of being sexually assaulted in public.

Trans women are women. Photo: @emmottelainea

A post shared by Paris Lees (@paris.lees) on

The writer shared her ordeal when she was harassed in a women’s toilet back in 2009.

A woman came up to her and asked her if her breasts were real. Being a trans woman, she was used to other people questioning her with rude and intrusive comments, but what followed later was indescribable and brought her shame and humiliation.

Some people find it preposterous to suggest that they put many in danger, "if a man wants to physically attack a woman, he can do so anywhere," states an advocate for gender-neutral toilets.

Not one occurrence of a trans person attacking someone in a public facility has been reported.

“I always get annoyed about the fact that we have gender-specific bathrooms everywhere. What about trans-friendly toilets?,” echoes Stephanie Lin, from South London. “Whenever I come across any gender-neutral bathrooms, I feel overwhelmed and exhilarated as I don’t have to wait for long because of shorter queues.”

Gender-neutral bathrooms would also allow all parents—including trans parents—to escort their children to baby-changing facilities.

“If there were unisex bathrooms everywhere, it would mean complete freedom for us and that would put a stop to harassment and sexism completely,” says Kelly Tyler from London. “It would be like living in la-la land.”

In 2017 Donald Trump's administration scrapped federal protections for transgender students that had ordered schools in all states in the United States of America to allow them to use bathrooms of their choice.

Victory for transgender students! "A U.S. District Court ruled that a transgender student in Talbot County, Maryland must be allowed to use the restroom and locker room that's 'in alignment with their gender identity.'" To read more copy/paste 👉👉👉👉👉👉👉 - - Or visit CreagerCole Communications’ Facebook Page. We also invite you to LIKE us on FB and follow us here on Instagram - #bathroombill #protecttranskids #transpeoplearenotaburden #genderidentity #transactivism #transgenderidentity #transidentity #transgenderrights #transrights #transrightsarehumanrights #transdiscrimination #transcommunity #transgendercommunity #lgbtqRIGHTS #LGBTQdiscrimination - #CreagerCole #publicrelations #communications #media #LGBTQI #LGBTQ #LGBT #lgbt🌈 #lgbtqPR #creagercolecommunications #lgbtplus #lgbtpluscommunity #WeGetYourStoryInTheNews #WeKnowLGBTQIPLUSissues #WeHelpYouTellYourStory

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Obama, in his presidency, had instructed public schools in 2016 to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity, threatening of no federal funding if they pressured transgender pupils into using bathrooms against their will.

Civil rights groups in America condemned Trump’s decision calling it an attack on transgender children denying them of equal rights.

#bathroomrights #anyonebuttrump

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About 200 people protested in front of the White House by waving rainbow flags and chanting: "No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here.”

Some celebrities also criticised the move on social media last year, with TV presenter Ellen DeGeneres tweeting:

"This isn't about politics. It's about human rights."

Things are about to change for transgender people living in the UK. An increase in gender-neutral toilets is one of the aims of Sadiq Khan's "Draft New London Plan". It will address the concerns of transgender people who face intimidation and harassment in gender-segregated amenities when they are accused by others of "misusing" public spaces.

To those who disapprove of gender-neutral toilets: they’re handy for everybody. Research into the benefits of these provisions shows they reduce waiting time for women, and address the concerns of trans and disabled people.