LGBT+ history month
Tories tout toilet tensions
Maddy Steeds, Manchester and Salford Socialist Party
The Tory government has opened a call for evidence regarding the availability of men’s and women’s toilet facilities. The call suggests that women have been disadvantaged by the removal of gendered toilet facilities in favour of gender-neutral facilities. The call further suggests that the use of non-gendered language in signage causes ‘public confusion’.
The lack of appropriate facilities that this call is aiming to address is not the fault of trans people and the movement towards more inclusive infrastructure, but is in fact due to the years of austerity we have faced in Britain. Councils have cut public restroom facilities, rather than fighting the Tories for the funding they need for these essential facilities and the rest of our public services.
Councils have got away with such cuts by instead getting private businesses to allow members of the public to use their facilities – if they are willing to buy from them.
For many working-class people, it is not feasible to buy a snack in a café just to gain access to essential facilities. For those with children, or medical or hygienic needs that require more frequent access to toilets, this can become very costly. In 2017, figures suggested that one in five people will avoid going out due to a lack of public toilets.
Trans people have long fought for the right to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. Many trans people have faced abuse when entering the bathrooms for being trans, and as a result may avoid using public restrooms for fear of attack. While at times there are gender neutral, disabled facilities available, many trans people would prefer not to use those facilities when others may need them.
This problem becomes more complicated for non-binary people, as neither male nor female facilities can feel appropriate.
For this group, gender-neutral facilities are essential, as they allow all people to feel comfortable using the bathroom and avoid feelings of displacement and dysphoria that can arise from using gendered facilities.
Overall, while the government consultation suggests that the lack of public restrooms is due to the increase of gender-neutral facilities, it is in fact years of austerity that have caused a lack of facilities across Britain.
We need councils that will fight to reverse the cuts to public facilities and will fight to use the local council’s reserves to set no-cuts budgets. We also need to fight against the scapegoating of trans people in society, and fight for a socialist society that meets the needs of everyone.