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Unisex public toilet

File:Toilets unisex.svg
The male and female symbols displayed on a door together are often used to indicate a unisex toilet.

A unisex public toilet, alternatively called a unisex bathroom, unisex lavatory, gender-neutral public toilet,[1] gender-neutral washroom,[2][3] or often shortened to just unisex toilet[4] or unisex restroom[5][6] is a public toilet that people of any gender or gender identity may use. Developers may use these restrooms in order to save costs and space by eliminating the need for a separate facility, such as on airliners, trains or buses.

According to Dalhousie University, Canada: "A gender-neutral washroom is one where the signage is visibly identified with open, inclusive language, not just male or female. It's evident these facilities are void of gender identity and have accommodations that are especially sensitive to the needs of a greater range of people. Some people are not comfortable using male or female-designated washrooms."[7]

Reasons to have unisex public toilets

Unisex toilets are considered an equity and human rights issue for people who identify outside of the gender binary. Unisex toilets can eliminate discrimination and harassment as people cannot be considered to be in the "wrong" bathroom.[citation needed]

They also provide privacy in the broadest sense; unisex toilets can eliminate barriers for all persons, no matter their gender, age, religion, ability, health status, etc.[7][clarification needed]

Advocacy and Inclusion Leadership

File:Male and female sign.svg
Some toilets use a combined gender symbol to indicate a gender-neutral or transgender-friendly bathroom.

Unisex toilets are being adopted in the US primarily because an increasing number of elderly couples include a person whose mobility issues necessitates the other's assistance.[citation needed] Furthermore, transgender advocacy groups in the United States promote unisex toilets, believing that they eliminate harassment and other inconveniences that transgender and gender non-conforming people experience when using gender segregated bathrooms.[5][6]

In 2005, five American cities, including, San Francisco and New York, required that public restroom access be based on a person's perceived gender identity rather than their birth sex.[8]

In the United Kingdom, unisex toilets are sometimes found on university campuses. In early 2013, Brighton and Hove city council introduced unisex toilets, which did not feature the words 'men/gentlemen' or 'women/ladies' (as is traditional), but instead used 'universal symbols', which was described as 'political correctness' by the right-wing press in the UK.[1]

In April 2014, the Vancouver Park Board decided to install unisex toilets in public buildings, with different signs to identify them. Amongst the options discussed was the rainbow triangle (based on the pink triangle used during the Holocaust), an 'all-inclusive' gender symbol, an icon representing a toilet or the phrases 'washroom' or 'gender-neutral washroom' placed on the entrances to the toilets. According to Canadian Global News online newspaper, many different regions across Canada offer unisex toilets and other gender-neutral facilities, but Vancouver was the first municipality to change building codes to require unisex toilets be built in public buildings. This movement, according to commissioner Trevor Loke, was aimed to make everyone feel welcomed and included: "We think that the recommendation of universal washrooms is a good idea [...] [w]e will be using more inclusive language based on the BC Human Rights Code." Some initiatives to make washrooms more diverse and inclusive have focused on language simply by using the phrases 'washroom' or 'gender-neutral washroom' in order to be inclusive of all genders and gender identities, or using specifically geared language such as 'women and trans women' as opposed to just 'women' (and vice versa for men and trans men). [2][3]

Unisex public toilets on college campuses

Recently, there has been a growing trend on college campuses in the US to establish unisex public toilets. Many campuses are renaming existing restrooms and toilets in order to be more inclusive. According to a study by the University of Massachusetts, there are over 150 college campuses across the US that are creating gender-neutral restrooms. Safety concerns have prompted many colleges to take action to implement non-gendered bathrooms.[clarification needed] Activists, who are trying to get more unisex restrooms on college campuses, hope that everyone, not just gendered individuals, can feel safe.[9][clarification needed]

Research by the University of Massachusetts comments on the need for gender neutral restrooms and the issue of safety. It says that certain people feel threatened using facilities that do not adhere to their gender identity, and this can become an issue when students are harassed by their peers. The University states that this is more of an issue in restrooms that are designated for male use than those that are designated for female use.[10]

According to a research article by Olga Gershenson of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, restrooms have always been an issue for one group or another. First, women around the world petitioned for the right to their own facilities; next were racial minorities in the US during the time of segregation. After this fight, people with disabilities raised the issue to get fully equipped facilities. That fight ended with changes to building codes to make washroom more accessible. Now the issue concerns transgender and other gender variant people.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Brighton Council to open 'gender neutral' public toilets as it 'phases out male and female lavatories'". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Judd, Amy. "Vancouver Park Board votes to install gender-neutral washrooms". Global News. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Judd, Amy. "Vancouver Park Board asking for input on universal washrooms and signage". Global News. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  4. ^ Roberts, Rachel. "Unisex toilets in schools should be avoided at all costs". The Independent. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Mass. moves on ‘unisex’ restrooms for transgender students". Word News, via the Washington Times. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Chasmar, Jessica. "Mass. moves on ‘unisex’ restrooms for transgender students". The Washington Times. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Gender-Neutral Washrooms". Dalhousie University. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  8. ^ Brown, Patricia Leigh. "A Quest for a Restroom That's Neither Men's Room Nor Women's Room". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  9. ^ Bellware, Kim. "Gender-Neutral Bathrooms Are Quietly Becoming The New Thing At Colleges". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  10. ^ Beemyn, Genny. "Gender-Neutral Restrooms" (PDF). Stonewall Center, University of Massachusetts. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Gershenson, Olga. "January 2010 The Restroom Revolution: Unisex toilets and campus politics". University of Massachusetts - Amherst. 

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