Nightlife safety campaign Good Night Out and LGBT+ anti-violence charity Galop have published a toolkit to combat misinformation and support better access to safe toilets for everyone.
We All Need The Toilet! An All-Gender Access Toolkit has been published as more businesses and public spaces offer an all-gender bathroom option but people are still challenged, questioned or even attacked for being in the ‘wrong' toilet.
The toolkit offers a detailed guide for any business that provides toilets for visitors on how to comply with regulations while safely and sensitively ensuring facilities are gender-inclusive, with suggestions on signage, refitting and redesignating, evidence from academic studies and research that debunks common myths, as well as testimonies from transgender and non-binary people who face stress, harassment and even violence simply when trying to use the loo.
The right to use the toilet most appropriate for one's gender has been protected under the Equality Act in Britain since 2010, however more venues opting to provide all-gender facilities in recent years have been met with backlash due to misconceptions around safety and queues.
Galop's 2020 Transphobia Report found nearly two-thirds of respondents felt unable to use public toilets due to transphobia. One in four respondents had experienced or been threatened with transphobic physical assault and one in five had experienced or been threatened with sexual assault. Similarly, women who are not trans (cis women) but present in a ‘masculine' way often experience harassment for being in the ‘wrong' toilets.
The international evidence around gender-inclusive toilets shows they are safer for people of all genders. For example, findings from a 2018 peer-reviewed study charting issues before and after a trans-inclusive anti-discrimination bill was passed in Massachusetts in the US showed a decrease in sexual violence and voyeurism in bathrooms after the bill was passed into law.
There is also a misconception that gender-inclusive toilets increase queues and disproportionately impact women. In reality, when planned correctly, all-gender bathrooms have been found to result in the lowest combined wait time overall.
The toolkit looks at the dos and don'ts for all-gender toilets and suggests options for different venues depending on the space and facilities available. Venues might start by simply displaying a ‘Pee in Peace' sign to remind customers that gender discrimination has no place on their premises, to ‘choose and use the loo that feels right for you' and ‘respect the privacy and choice of others,' alongside practical considerations like providing bins for menstrual products in all stalls so that trans men who are menstruating can dispose of them discretely.
Smaller venues that already have two separate but identical toilet stalls can remove gendered signs, while bigger venues with multiple toilets can redesignate rooms or rework signs to advertise what's in each space, eg, urinals or stalls.
Best practice when possible, the toolkit said, is mixed facilities with cubicles containing hand basins, or individual toilet cubicles with a separate all-gender hand washing and drying area. While this may be a more significant investment for some venues, it covers all bases in terms of safety, inclusion and practicality, and is proven to be the most efficient solution for waiting times.
Good Night Out Campaign's director Bryony Beynon said: "We know sexual harassment and assault are deeply gendered, impacting women and LGTBQ+ people disproportionately. However, enforcing gender norms by policing bathrooms through compulsory segregation or assuming where someone ‘should' be does not prevent violence and can actually help create a conducive context for it.
"Given the atmosphere of fear and disinformation, we wanted to cut through the noise and provide some caring, common sense guidance on this issue. What's more, when bathroom options that work for everyone help trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming visitors to feel safer and more welcome, that makes business sense, too!"