Everyone needs to pee. Well, that’s what the National Union of Students stickers say. But trying to do just that is quite hard for those of us who are trans* or gender diverse. We face questioning of our gender identity, threats of violence and sometimes intimidation from the authorities. Recently, in Victoria, I went to pee at a toilet in Flinders Street Railway Station and I was questioned about my use of the toilet by at least three members of the Victorian Police. My sense of self-esteem was shattered.
I have never quite felt comfortable using gendered bathrooms, and I know a number of people in our community don’t either.
This highlights the need for gender-neutral toilets, a place where a person can be comfortable enough to pee without being subjected to threats and intimidation, or feeling like they are using the wrong bathroom and that their gender identity is being questioned.
There are those who will argue that a gender-neutral toilet will not work. However, we have a perfect example of how it can and does work in society in the form of most disabled toilets, which do not have an assigned gender, and guess what? Nothing happens apart from people doing their business in peace.
It is disturbing to note, though, that at UNSW, the Muppets at FM say that it would be too difficult to make gender-neutral some of the toilets on campus. But in response, they have started to segregate the disabled toilets into gender binaries, thus removing from students and staff some of the only safe places to pee on campus and costing more in terms of replacing signage.
It is high time that the university actually thought of its staff and students’s welfare and instituted some gender-neutral bathrooms.
I realise that some people may not be comfortable with standing up to the authorities and threats – and I’ll admit, neither am I – but last time I was questioned on my usage of the female toilet I did reply. Yes I am in the right bathroom, so fuck off!