Genders that exist outside the binary have been becoming steadily more visible in the UK in recent years, though there is evidence to suggest they’ve been around in both our own culture and others for centuries beforehand. Politically, they’re not often acknowledged, and even within the LGBT+ movement, they face discrimination.
Simple things, like choosing which bathroom to use and getting people to call them by the correct name can be difficult for people who fall under the trans umbrella. Not having options available to them, such as pronoun badges or all-gender bathrooms, can cause strong sensations of dysphoria, which has a huge impact on a person’s mental health.
Recently, a petition has appeared around campus asking people to sign their support for all-gender bathrooms arguing that the University of Southampton should have all-gender bathrooms, along with more widespread availability. Other local venues have them – The Edge, Southampton’s local gay club, has no gender restrictions on any of the bathrooms.
Not only are these bathrooms important for non-binary people, who may feel they don’t fit in either a male or female-gendered bathroom, it also sends a wider message of inclusivity, which will be felt throughout the LGBT+ community here on campus. It removes anxiety from non-binary people feeling uncertainty about which bathroom to use and means that those who don’t conform to traditional genders can use the bathroom without feeling like they might face abuse or have their gender questioned. Often single-stall bathrooms are offered up as a gender-neutral bathroom that those who are in such a situation can use, however frequently these are the already limited in supply disabled bathrooms and the accessible facilities are particularly important for disabled students.
All-gender bathrooms would also be inclusive of those from other cultures where non-binary genders are more common. For those who are in the closet or questioning their gender, it removes the problem of deciding which bathroom to use when. In all-gender bathrooms, accessibility to hygiene products such as sanitary towels and tampons wouldn’t be gendered, enabling those who menstruate but don’t identify as women to access them with confidence.
This debate spreads far wider than just our campus. In America, there has recently been debate about which bathrooms trans women should use as cisgendered women claim that male sexual predators will use a false gender identity as an excuse to prey on them in public bathrooms. However, there’s no evidence to support this claim, and in fact trans women are far more likely to be the victims of sexual assault than to be perpetrators.
Those who identify as any gender should be allowed access to a bathroom that makes them feel both comfortable and safe, and all-gender bathrooms will truly enable this as well as sending a clear message that we have an inclusive, diverse campus.