Sunday, 8 February 2015

Unisex Toilets - This Shit Gets Political

EDITOR'S NOTE. Since writing this post we have changed our position on this issue. Quoting ourselves, here is a summary of our standpoint:

Incidentally we were, as you can see if you go back through our Unisex Toilets label and read older posts (for instance this one), originally in favour of trans inclusivity. Being inclusive seemed to be a matter of human rights; both men and women are at risk of male violence, and if some men who look like women are at an even higher risk of violence, then surely letting them share a toilet with the women makes perfect sense? Unfortunately, however, it's not that simple. It turns out that there are plenty of men (again, not all men) who are prepared to argue that they are trans women in order to gain access to spaces where women are vulnerable, for instance rape crisis centres, domestic violence shelters, changing rooms and, yes, toilets. Robbing women of the right to banish men from women-only spaces renders them powerless to protect themselves against male violence.

In one of our first posts about unisex toilets, we gave expression to our fear of being trapped in an enclosed space with strange men by flippantly describing the bearded hipsters crowding the sink. We have since had cause to drop the flippancy. We empathise with trans women and -men, but fail to see why supporting them must endanger women. 

A longer read defining our position is available here:
Halloween 2018: Raped and Murdered Women, and Statistics. It Doesn't Get Scarier Than This.

We are furious. And sad. And fed up. But mostly furious.

We had a spirited debate with Tudor Friend last night, as a consequence of us having been to the pub with the unisex toilet full of bearded hipster dudes again, only this time the problem wasn't hipster dudes but middle-aged businessmen in grey polyester suits.

Let us explain why we feel so strongly about this issue.

Unisex toilets seem to have become a trend, and it’s leading to sheer bloody misery. The ladies’ toilet is a sacred space – a place where one can take refuge from the male gaze, and rest one’s ears if they have been exposed to an assault of mansplaining. In the ladies’, one can adjust one’s bra, pull up the crotch of one’s tights, check one’s teeth for spinach, and top up one’s eyeliner, in a safe, women-only environment.

Bar owners who impose unisex toilets are depriving women of these essential comforts. Once introduce a space where bearded hipster dudes in denim shirts are hogging the space in front of the sink, and you have set the cause of gender equality back a hundred years.

The ladies’ toilets provide a kind of environment that isn’t usually afforded women in public spaces. Women are accustomed to having their integrity violated – to being sized up, judged, verbally assaulted, and even pinched, grabbed, and smacked. The women’s toilets can be the one place where one can catch one’s breath, enjoy a few moments of stillness, and put one’s brave face back on.

We're not in favour of gender segregation per se, but we can see no possible advantage to unisex toilets.

Or rather, we couldn't, until Tudor Friend showed us this article, from Slate. Don't read it if you're already sad. It shocked us to the core. We like to think that we're cynical, tough-as-nails people at the Counsel, hardened to every expression of human iniquity. But damn it if we weren't unnerved by the sheer sadism of the Florida legislators who want to make it illegal for transgender people to use a toilet that doesn't match their biological sex. As Jezebel reports, a bill titled "Single-Sex Public Facilities" was filed by Florida Republican State Rep. Frank Artilesunder the guise of preventing "criminals, sexual deviants and sexual predators" from harassing women.

Introducing unisex toilets could prevent people like Frank Artiles from harassing transgender people. But so could common-sense legislators, by showing Artiles's bill the scorn it deserves, and shoving it into the bin where it belongs.

We're still not in favour of unisex toilets. But we reiterate that We don't care what a lady is packing under her dress - if she identifies as a woman, then we want to be sharing a toilet with her, and not with fifteen hipster dudes in beards and denim shirts, smiling awkwardly.

We welcome all transgender women to the sisterhood, and look forward to sharing many toilets with them in the future - if they want to! And we're confident that our many excellent male friends feel the same about transgender men.

Now, let's look at some awesome toilets from an excellent bar we went to recently, which manage to be both inclusive and segregated. These, ladies and gentlemen (of whichever biological sex), are from Bee bar in Malmö.

The gents' toilet, flanked by Audrey Hepburn. So far, so good.

The ladies'. Complete with notice advertising ladies' evening.

Also, a unisex toilet! With its own noise-insulating door!

There is a communal sink available for all...
...but each toilet also has its own sink, ensuring privacy for all who wish it.
There's soap and paper towels from Tork.
We love this so much!
Stylish, disability-friendly toilet, covered bin, covered loo-roll holder. And a ventilation grille!
We gibber with joy.

The door is sturdy and has a reassuring lock. This kind of door makes a girl (or boy, or whatever) feel safe.

There is also a royally cool coat hook!



Bee Bar
Södra Förstadsgatan 36, Malmö

Seriously, people. Toilets don't get better than this.

Let's have a festive video and encourage all our friends to fight for the rights of the transgender community!

Festive video - I Will Survive from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, performed by Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving & Guy Pearce

Another Malmö pub toilet with a fab chandelier: Rocking, Rolling, Ranting
Sometimes, the only thing that makes everything better is thinking about Caitlin Moran. All posts about Caitlin Moran.

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