Unisex Toilet


A unisex toilet is a public restroom or toilet that is available for use by either the male or female gender. Sex-separated public toilets are a source of difficulty for some people. For example, people with children of the opposite sex must choose between bringing the child into a toilet not designated for the child’s gender, or entering a toilet not designated for one’s own. Men caring for babies often find that only the women’s washroom has been fitted with a change table. People with disabilities who need assistance to use the restroom have an additional problem if their helper is the opposite sex.

Some public places (such as facilities targeted to the transgender or LGBT communities, and a few universities and offices) provide individual washrooms that are not gender-specified, specifically in order to respond to the concerns of gender-variant people; but this remains very rare and often controversial. Various courts have ruled on whether transgender people have the right to use the washroom of their gender of identification.

Transgender advocacy groups in the United States have taken up the cause of unisex toilets. They see unisex toilets as a solution to eliminate harassment and other inconveniences for trans people in using conventional toilets. In 2005 there were 5 American cities, including San Francisco and New York, with regulations for public restroom access based on person’s perceived gender identity rather than their birth sex. A significant number of facilities have additional gender-neutral public toilets for a different reason — they are marked not for being for females or males, but as being accessible to persons with disabilities, and are adequately equipped to allow a person using a wheelchair and/or with mobility concerns to use them. Some buildings have restrooms with a single toilet each, and these could be redesignated as gender-neutral without requiring people of different genders to share them at the same time.

There are several ways to add gender neutral toilets to existing restroom provision without building new toilet blocks. One is to simply designate disabled toilets as gender neutral, as disabled users of both genders use them anyway. Under this model, University of Bradford Union became the first university student union in the United Kingdom to institute gender neutral toilets in 2008 after campaigning by the student union’s welfare officer. Another option is to make all toilets unisex, regardless of previous designation. Sussex University has been trialling this. Several other universities have instituted gender neutral toilets after campaigning by union LGBT groups, most notably Manchester University, who faced an international media furor in 2008 after they designated one set of their four toilets as gender neutral.

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