UK government makes shocking U-turn on single-sex bathroom policy

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Aug 16, 2023 at 11:37 AM

Reading time: 1 minute

On Sunday 13 August 2023, the UK government released a press release detailing plans to enforce new building requirements for separate male and female toilets. The government has introduced this  initiative to reverse what the Tory government has deemed a “rise of gender-neutral toilets” as part of their wider “efforts to protect single-sex spaces.”

What this “reversal” actually means, of course, is that the UK government is now aggressively pursuing a course of action which will effectively erase the safety and well-being of non-cisgendered individuals.

Bathrooms have always been a divisive topic, particularly in conversations that look at the rights and agency of trans and non-binary individuals. Often we see conservative governments use bathrooms as a political weapon, painting the trans community as potential threats to women—a notion that’s not only highly transphobic, but also simply false.

The press release stated: “The change comes amid dignity and privacy concerns from women and elderly people who feel they are being unfairly disadvantaged as publicly accessible toilets are increasingly being converted into gender-neutral facilities.”

Kemi Badenoch, Minister for Women and Equalities, noted: “It is important that everybody has privacy and dignity when using public facilities. Yet the move towards ‘gender neutral’ toilets has removed this fundamental right for women and girls.”

The general omission of the safety and rights of trans and non-binary individuals within the statement is evident: their safety is less important. Enforcing new buildings to prioritise single-sex bathrooms will ultimately mean that gender-neutral toilets will disappear—leaving thousands of LGBTQIA+ people at risk of harassment, violence, and abuse.

According to a 2020 peer-reviewed study by researchers at suicide-prevention organisation, The Trevor Project, 58 per cent of transgender and/or non-binary (TGNB) youths in this sample reported being prevented or discouraged from using a bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Among the TGNB youth who experienced bathroom discrimination, 85 per cent reported depressive mood and 60 per cent seriously considered suicide.

While cisgendered men are overwhelmingly often the perpetrators of violence against women and girls, trans individuals have now become depicted as inherently dangerous to anyone who might be in a bathroom. However, there have been multiple studies which have proven that there is zero link between trans-inclusive bathroom policies and a decrease in safety.

Them has also reported that the single-sex bathroom policy comes even in the face of a survey that found that 83 per cent of UK residents supported non-gendered facilities.

2023 has been a devastating year for anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation and sentiment, and this recent proposal proves that the fight for equality is far from over.

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