In 2016 a survey of 27,715 trans people in the United States found that 60 percent of trans Americans have avoided using public bathrooms, citing fear of being assaulted or harassed.
The same study found that thirty-two percent of transgender people have limited the amount they’ve eaten or drunk in order to avoid using a gendered toilet. Eight percent of respondents reported suffering a medical issue such as a kidney or urinary tract infection, due to avoiding public restrooms.
Four years later and trans people still do not have designated restrooms.
In response to a post on the GenderGP blog about the subject, a member of the GenderGP community shared the difficulty they have with using public toilets when out, as the city they live in only has one gender neutral option.
Here were the responses:
Some people were against able bodied people using toilets meant for those with disabilities,
It’s never OK to use the disabled toilet unless you have a disability. If you are a trans woman use women’s facilities. Trans men use men’s facilities. If there are unisex use them by choice but not pressure. End of.
Personally – using a disabled loo may impact a disabled person who needs it urgently, so I wouldn’t use it.
As someone who is trans and disabled it’s so unfair to block these. Some disabilities like myself need the rails to get back up and others I know need to lay flat for changing. I understand that it’s not ideal to go in gendered toilets but that’s not a choice disabled get.
Other people felt that the safety concerns should not be ignored,
Some able bodied and disabled trans people mentioned that they had purchased RADAR keys to allow them to use disabled toilets,
I have a Radar Key as I can’t control when I need to go. I have crohn’s it gives me an added edge. I don’t use any other as I don’t want to offend. The way I look at it is if they haven’t got a unisex toilet, then use it. Radar keys are that expensive as well.
Concerns were raised by some over the idea of unisex toilets as a solution,
Transphobes are campaigning for us to use unisex toilets because doing so validates at least 2 of their beliefs:
- Trans women are not women
- Trans women display male pattern violence and are a danger to women in female toilets.”
It also excludes us from a lot of social places. My local cinema has no unisex loos, nor does my workplace. Am I to be excluded from both? I don’t think we should be encouraging trans people to see unisex toilets as their default option.
Safety is important. Using gendered loos can make you vulnerable. But one thing I’ve learned in my transition is to balance vulnerability and safety. If it becomes generally known that trans people use unisex loos, the danger is they become “trans loos” and can be targeted for violence.
One commenter said that there are apps available that alert trans people to non-gendered toilets in the area and another made mention of the equality act, that allows trans people to use the toilet that matches their gender.
If she doesn’t feel comfortable using the women’s toilet, for whatever reason, that’s up to her; but depending on her geographic location there are various downloadable apps that identify unisex bathrooms in various cities, designed for just such an issue.
If she identifies as a woman she should use the ladies. The Equality Act gives her this right and I would encourage her to exercise her right. The trans community must not give in to the gender-critical and transphobes.
Ultimately though, the equality act is not helpful in the moment to a person who is feeling threatened or in danger in a public toilet. It is only permission to use a toilet, it doesn’t guarantee safety. It is an interesting conversation that the rights of one vulnerable community are tangibly provided for (admittedly often very poorly and only for some of that community), yet there is no legal requirement to provide public toilets for trans and non binary people.
It is not up to able bodied people to decide who gets to use disabled toilets. However it would be interesting to hear what disability groups have to say about their toilets being used as a safety measure by trans people.
One disabled person, speaking for themselves only said,
“Disabled trans person here. Do what you need to do to feel safe”
GenderGP contacted a number of Disability Organisations for comment, no responses had been received at the time of publishing.