If ‘inclusivity’ is a priority, let men make their washrooms ‘gender-neutral’ and #savetheladies

Women have only just begun their fight for inclusion in public life; now we are expected to give up our washrooms?

In the liberal rush to make anything and everything “gender-inclusive,” who is getting the short end of the stick? I bet you know the answer to this one… We are only too aware, as feminists, that it is always women and girls whose interests seem to be considered non-urgent, unimportant, and irrelevant. It is always girls and women who are politely supposed to step aside for everyone else. With a smile, at that.

When journalist and BBC broadcaster Samira Ahmed attended a screening of I Am Not Your Negro at the Barbican Centre in London she found the women’s washroom had disappeared. Now, in place of the “women’s” sign was one that read, “gender-neutral with cubicles,” and in place of the “men’s” was a sign reading, “gender-neutral with urinals.” How convenient for men to have two different washrooms to choose from! How inclusive.

Ahmed wasn’t the only one who complained about this change. When she spoke to staff at the Centre, they told Ahmed they had already argued, internally, that the transformation was a mistake. On Twitter, one woman wrote, “Gender neutral toilets !!! Never seen so many confused and desperate people!! Whose bright idea?!!” Another tweeted: “Barbican now have gender neutral toilets. They just changed the signs, formerly male ones state they have urinals. Guess what happens?”

After Ahmed complained, the Centre explained that the decision was made in order to be “welcoming to all.” A spokeswoman also told the London Evening Standard, “The Barbican is committed to providing a supportive, inclusive, and flexible space for all our audiences and staff.” But how “welcoming” is a space to women when they no longer have a washroom to themselves? Why is it that women are always the ones expected to be “flexible” and “supportive” at the expense of their own comfort and safety?

Ahmed argued that the Centre should simply make the men’s washroom gender-neutral, and keep the women’s as is, seeing as the men’s never has a lineup anyway, and clearly men aren’t going to be threatened with an influx of women in their urinals. Women, on the other hand, will be forced to accept men in their already overcrowded washrooms.

Trans activists will often pretend that “gender-inclusive” bathrooms are simply about everyone having a place to pee. Sounds reasonable, right?! Others will go even further. Chase Strangio, an attorney at the ACLU, continually argues that without gender-inclusive washrooms, trans-identified people literally cannot leave their houses or attend school. “This is about the right for trans people to exist in public spaces. If you can’t use the restroom, you can’t go out,” Strangio says.

The irony of claiming that sex-segregated washrooms mean trans-identified people cannot “participate in public life” seems entirely lost on Strangio, who apparently has chosen to ignore the fact that women were literally kept out of public life until relatively recently.

We were not allowed to vote, attend university, open a bank account, participate in politics, breastfeed in public, or go to bars. Women were not “persons” under Canadian law until 1929. Even today, while many of us are legally permitted to do things like vote and go to bars, women remain under threat and unsafe in public spaces. Breastfeeding in public remains extremely controversial, and women are very often shamed for doing so. (The result of this is that, in many ways, new mothers are kept out of public spaces because we, as a society, insist breasts exist for men to look at and nothing more.) In Saudi Arabia, women are still not allowed to drive or use public swimming pools. Female politicians continue to experience sexist treatment from male colleagues and the media; and are subjected to violent, misogynist threats, harassment, and mockery from the public. In the workplace, sexual harassment is rampant, making participation in the police force or military, for example, so traumatic that women are forced out. Until recently, women didn’t even have separate showers and locker rooms in some Canadian fire halls, an issue that contributed to the sexual harassment they experienced, and made many female fire fighters feel “unwelcome, unsafe, and at times unable to go to work.” And do I need to explain to you the stress women face simply taking public transit, walking down the street, or going to a bar?

All this is to say that while technically many women are “allowed” to participate in public life, in practice, that freedom is extremely limited. Indeed, women around the world are still punished simply for leaving the house. And now, we are (once again) being denied access to something so basic as a women’s washroom — a private space in public life that allows us a marginal sense of safety.

People like Strangio, venues like the Barbican, and, increasingly, community centres and schools seem to believe girls’ and women’s need for safe spaces should take a back seat in the face of the “gender identity” fad that pretends sex and sex-based oppression no longer exist. But we still need private spaces in public. If only to be able to escape, for a few moments, the ever-present male gaze that exists everywhere else. This sense of safety is destroyed when gender-neutral change rooms and bathrooms replace those previously designated for women.

In 2015, reports of voyeurism temporarily disrupted imposed “inclusivity” at the University of Toronto. The University’s Washroom Inclusivity Project explains that gender-neutral washrooms in student residences “exist in order to give transgender people a place where they feel included, and where they won’t be misgendered.” It’s funny (but not really!) that no one considered how “included” women would feel sharing a washroom with men. Indeed, inclusivity sounds nice, but is not as rosy as it’s made out to be within the context of a male supremacy largely enforced through violence.

Yes, everyone deserves a place to pee. But men risk nothing by offering up their washrooms to “all genders,” while women risk a lot. Making women’s toilets “inclusive” imagines a world that does not exist and prioritizes politically correct appearances over real life consequences.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • oh the hue manatee

    “Inclusivity” is the height of modern newspeak – If men would simply include all adult human males in their damn “man box,” there wouldn’t be any need for gender identity politics, which only exist to allow them to EXCLUDE insufficiently masculine males.

  • Cat Dancing

    I grant that whether to use men’s or women’s public restrooms is a genuine problem for pre-genital op male to female trans whereas same situation female to male trans can choose based on where they best blend in at each stage of the trans process. However, I doubt that’s the driver of “equal” public bathrooms so much as pure glee at sticking it to uppity (cis)women.

    • Cassandra

      There was a great piece by GM on GT a while back in regard to an interview of some kind with a trans “man” and her choice of bathroom; she continued to use the women’s bathroom more often than not because she didn’t feel comfortable in the men’s room and apparently this is often the case.


      • Cat Dancing

        Wish I could give you more than one up vote. The reality is that trans understand they might make some people uncomfortable, but women’s side eyes beat men’s left hooks. FTR I’m not trans, I just like to listen to people’s stories.

  • Rachael

    So happy you wrote this!!!! My mind is still blown that this is actually happening. It makes me very scared for the future, but damn it, I’m going to keep fighting this. Thanks, Meghan

  • Meghan Murphy

    It’s that they do have a place to pee, it’s just not the place they want.

  • Meghan Murphy

    You are comparing males (the dominant class of people in a patriarchy) to black people (an oppressed class of people in a white supremacy)…

  • Yisheng Qingwa
  • Kathleen Lowrey

    “Trans people are the excuse, not the reason”. Boom.

  • Bastet

    There’s also the fact of menstruation and urgency where lines can cause major problems for women. Women who have had children can sometimes also have minor to major bladder issues. The queues are really bad already. We need more bathrooms, not less. We need menstruation and pregnancy bathrooms.

  • lk

    Since bathrooms no longer have anything to do with sex….and apparently exist primarily to validate and affirm ones’s gender identity, we need to do away with binary-enforcing oppressive labels like mens bathrooms or girls bathrooms..all places need to have three bathrooms:
    1. Masculine
    2. Feminine
    3. AOGI /NGI (all other gender identities/no gender identity)

    All bathrooms will have urinals and toilets and a place to dispose of pads/tampons…since having a period is now a matter of gender identity and not biological reality.

    Awhile back I saw a clip of Gavin Grimm (a teen transboy) on CNN and she said her school wanted to accommodate her by letting her use the unisex bathroom…according to her this was unacceptable because she is not unisex…

  • Just Passing Through

    I think a lot of trans”women” imagine the women’s bathrooms as some club where we all go to giggle and put on make-up and talk about men, have pillow fights and exchange tampons. They just want in on all the great fun we’re having. Good lord, hardly anyone ever talks in the bathroom, we get in, do our biz and leave but all the tropes about our sex that exist in the male mind are what drives this bs…me thinks.

  • Tired feminist

    Oh, men-only spaces will persist anyway. It’s not as if transmen were massively invading the men’s loo, and, even if they were, they’re not threatening. Only women are fucked.

  • Cassandra

    My favorite part of the photograph in the Tweet at the top of the page: “Unisex.”

    ROFLMFAO! (Or else I’d cry.)

  • Yisheng Qingwa

    Obsessive reading of gender critical blogs.

  • Tired feminist

    Because Western countries are throwing bombs in their countries.

    Also, I take personal offense with your implication that there are only feminists and anti-racist activists in the first world.

  • Rich Garcia

    @Solrevan:disqus “You have never been to India, China, Japan, Saoudi Arabia and approximatively all muslim countries….Do you know what is the arabic term for black people? Slave…”

    I’m not talking about Asia or the Middle East. The politicians in these regions aren’t legislating “gender identity” into law, as far as anyone knows. White Western males are.

    And your White Fragility shows that you care about black people so much whenever other groups of people are hostile to them. What about white racism? That’s right. You types won’t own up to that shit. You have to bring up what other people are doing to deflect from your own bigotry.

    “If Western countries are so evil, and if white men are so racist and patriarchal…if western countries are so disgusting…why is it that no one among the feminists and other anti-racist activists flee the countries for South and central America, Africa, or the Arabic Peninsula?”

    Why should a Western woman flee to Latin America, Africa, or the Arabian Peninsula, when all she wants is respect as a full human being, her reproductive autonomy, her right to privacy (especially in sex-segregated spaces), and safety from male violence and harassment in her neck of the world? For white women in the West, much of their abuse, torment, and ostracization (social and political) comes at the hands of white men.

    “How is it that so many people from those countries try to come to Western countries if they are the worst place on Earth?”

    Nobody is talking about Western countries being the worst places on Earth. That people from all over the world are able to come to America for example is due to the successes of the Civil Rights and Feminist movement’s of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and nothing to do with the allegedly fair and genteel nature of the white male.

    • Revanchiste

      You have cut my message who should have read as a whole, which made you missing the point… I intended to show you how ridiculous the statement “white men (for those who live in Western Patriarchy), who are the most racist and misogynistic group of people on this planet” was.

      “And your White Fragility shows that you care about black people so much whenever other groups of people are hostile to them. What about white racism? That’s right. You types won’t own up to that shit. You have to bring up what other people are doing to deflect from your own bigotry.”

      Your statement is ridiculous. The main difference between you and me is that I do not judge people according to their skin color. You hate white people, I only hate those who are pieces of shit. You imply that I responded this because I am white…well no. I simply wanted to point out the obvious ignorance of the rest of the world that your statement implied. I do not care more about black people than I care about white, yellows, brown, or whatever color. I care about people, about their behavior. I am more inclined to be friend with a black atheist than I would be with a fundamentalist white christian, as I am more inclined to appreciate drinking with a Japanese than with any fundamentalist muslim wherever he comes from. It is somehow surprising than between you who hates white male and me who only cares about people characters, I am the bigot. But it is true also that you guys have a consistent history of changing the meaning of words…when it suits you to do so.

      The two other paragraphs are linked to the rest. You said that there is nothing more racist than a white (male). I simply highlighted the fact that if it is so, if white males are so evil, so racist, it would be surprising that POC from other countries would want to live in places dominated by white people.

      Your last paragraph shows how you have missed the point. I did not talk about the reason why POC can, but the reason why POC would emigrate to western countries… Why would a POC emigrate to a country where it will be so oppressed by white males.

      And I will tell you something about immigration. Fighting for immigration from poor countries, is making feminist and civil rights activists the useful idiots of capitalism. Capitalists love immigrants from poor countries far more than you guys will ever do…because immigration is the most useful tool to pressure workers. You want a raise? If your job does not require years of intensive training…well your boss will replace you by someone who would accept to do your job for a lower wage, more hours…etc. Feminists and civil rights activists are the best allies of Capitalism…You think you fight against? No, you give them what they want.

  • cday881@gmail.com

    It might spook out some guys. Me, I’m not worried. Some guys might get off on it.

  • cday881@gmail.com

    I’m not afraid they’ll laugh; I’m afraid they’ll die laughing.

  • Morag999

    “And a fond memory: Department stores used to have women’s restrooms with sofas, chairs, and tables.”

    Oh, oh, I remember one of those!

    It was in Sears, and boy, was it quiet and comfy. A true “restroom.” As teenagers, we would even use this ladies’ room as a meeting spot at the mall, and as a place where we could smoke cigarettes in secrecy and peace … there were huge, sand-filled ashtrays in there. It was a wonderful place with magazines on the tables, deep chairs, and orange, yellow and dark brown decor … heh heh.

    Thanks for reminding me about this, Tobysgirl!

    • Tobysgirl

      I never knew Sears had luxurious restrooms. I was thinking of Higbee’s in Cleveland or B Altman’s in Manhattan and how nice it was to sit down and organize oneself. This was when department stores had dining rooms with tablecloths as well. What a fantasy it all seems! I was too young to notice ashtrays, but I’m sure Higbee’s had them.

      • ptittle

        Goudies in Kitchener, anyone?

  • Morag999

    I agree.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Thanks, genius. The fact of being born with a female or male body matters, though, because we live in a patriarchy

  • pyrite00

    Males are not NOW prevented from using the men’s restroom – what some of these men want is to take over women’s spaces and you need to show me where in the Constitution the right of men to impose their “jendafeels” on women exists first…..

  • pyrite00

    OK, let the males of the world give us females just TWO decades free from rape, groping, catcalling, perving, etc, Just two measly decades. Then we can revisit this issue of allowing males into spaces for females.

  • Melanie

    Bad analogy. Racial segregation was arbitrary discrimination based in hate and prejudice. Sex segregation was enacted to ensure the rights and freedoms of the female sex, including black women.

  • lk

    Yes, I was surprised about this as well. Usually the loudest voices in trans-activism seems to be males…if any case made it to the SC, I was expecting it to be a MTF.

    Since men are so quick to use violence, I wonder if FTM trans would be scared to use the men’s restrooms.

  • Morag999

    Oh my god that’s HILARIOUS and true. Men are ostensibly better at everything — including at being oppressed!

  • Americus91

    My brain tells me if I’m sexually assaulted by a biological male I could become pregnant – that’s something a trans woman’s brain doesn’t have to concern itself with.

  • mail_turtle

    Yes, I know

  • Melanie

    The physical differences between men and women can have serious consequences for girls and women, eg. males are generally bigger and stronger and able to dominate and overcome women, they grope women, they expose themselves to women, they assault and rape women with their male bodies, they take advantage of gender neutral facilities to spy on and film women, sometimes they use bathrooms for masturbation and sexual encounters with other men. The physical differences and the higher incidence of violence, sexual harassment and predation from men are precisely why we need sex segregated facilities. Even in circumstances where there’s no harassment or violence men’s presence is threatening to women and girls, because of the fear of potential violence and the impact on our privacy, comfort and safety. To pretend that physical differences have no relevance is ridiculous.

  • FierceMild

    We don’t get to choose our sex. that is the point. We can’t choose sex, race, height, etc. trans people are trying to force women to deny biological reality because it would make them feel better; thy are NOT trying to do the same to men because men have higher social status and it wouldn’t work. This is abuse, trespass, and gaslighting and is in no way justified by the idea that it might soothe trans feelings. They have no right to soothe themselves at the expense of other marginalized people.

  • Kris

    The gall they have to compare it to racial segregation is shocking. Transwomen are basically claiming they are oppressed for not being allowed to leave the privileged class and join the oppressed class.

  • Rachael

    I think that trans attacks on women (verbally or physically) because women want their bathrooms to remain just for women and girls (biologically born) is the single biggest sign that transwomen have been socialised as men. The complete lack of understanding and compassion for the women they claim they wish to be (or, are) is astounding. If transwomen feel that they will be attacked in the men’s bathroom then they need to start campaigning against male violence, not expect women to make the allowances.

    • Danielle Matheson

      F*ck yeah!!!!!!!!

  • Rachael

    Amazing comment, bravo!

  • Sabine

    Right on. Absolute sense.

  • FierceMild

    I don’t assume I know what a person is saying unless it’s crystal clear. Your position is murky so no, I don’t think I understand your point at all.

  • FierceMild

    I agree with you…mostly. I wonder if you could direct me to something that would clarify your claim that most MtT consider themselves female as an escape from performing violence and sexual predation?

    • Sabine

      I didn’t actually say most…oh that that were the case! I was thinking of the MtTs who are not raving trans (MRA) activists…the ones we don’t hear about because they’re just getting on with it and not enforcing their choices on anybody. I kind of assumed they were more in number than the MRAs-in-drag brigade but maybe I am wrong. I hear what you’re saying…more and more we are faced with the very male violence of purportedly “female” identifiers…

  • Chelsea Tornade-Hoe

    Women always lose, if we ask to keep our facilities sex segregated we will lose, so I propose a compromise. Why cant there be two separate doors, one female (meaning sex) the other male (meaning sex). Beyond the male door there could be a wall erected dividing the space so that there are two separate areas, one door says identify as men, the other saying transwomen (or gender-identity neutral if that’s what they prefer). That way biologically female people still get sex segregated spaces, and transwomen still get gender-identity segregated spaces they just don’t get access to bio females. The same could be done in the female one. I assume only one or two toilets would need to be walled off for gender-identifying people since they make up much less of the population. Perhaps toilets could be expanded to be larger also because yes there is already a problem with queuing in the female toilets. This way females (including transmen) can be safe from males, and male transwomen can have private space away from other males that also ‘validates’ in a way their gendered self-identity, could put a make-up mirror in there too which I’m guessing they want that regular male facilities might not have. Architectually i don’t think it would be difficult to achieve.

  • Meghan Murphy

    What are you talking about? What is wrong with ‘anger’ and who is trying to ‘change their anger’??

    • Camryn Tompkins

      From transwomen fighting violently for rights. It doesnt solve anything. It only serves as more of a devife.

    • Camryn Tompkins

      Before i started blocking my testosterone and expressing myself properly, anger was a very potent emotion in my life. I was never a fighter or a violent type, but more i knew how to use my words to hurt.
      Once i started HRT, anger took a step back and now im morr inclined to experience emotion in a more pure light, like happiness being real happiness, or anger being for a reason, not a chemical reaction.
      It bothers me when i see other transwomen lashing out. It seems…barbaric.

      • ptittle

        This is interesting. It affirms the view that testosterone, at least at certain levels, perhaps the ‘natural’ level present in males, is toxic; the view that men in general are suffering from toxic poisoning. And the remedy is clear. Pity anti-testosterone meds won’t become as common as anti-depressants.

      • Danielle Matheson

        It’s male socialization. And a true woman is an adult female. It’s nothing to do with her personality. That’s why biology is important, not just on a physical level but in every other level one can think of.

        • Camryn Tompkins

          I always have flashbacks to this strange article when that is said.

          If you dont feel like reading, theres a place in the world where 1 in about 90 men are born with a vagina, and socialized as girls. But around 12, thier penis appears.
          Im curious to know what you think about this :)?

          I didnt choose my socialization and thats beyond my control. In fact, i refused to touch a hula hoop, dance, sing, or be expressive pre transition. It would have meant being ostracized and beaten up. Now i dont take those beautiful little joys for granted.

          One of my saddest memories was about 5 years ago at thanksgiving at my aunts. I was inside, with the kids and adults, minding my own, and my mom told me to go see the men in the garage. Go be social. I walked into that garage to be glared at, offerred a beer (which i refused, i dont like beer often), and then ignored. I didnt belong there. I knew it. They knew it. I wasnt socialized as anything properly. Some people are happy having no place to fit. Im not. I like having a place to fit in.

          Now im just an awkward girl…and that hurts more than anything.

          • Danielle Matheson

            That is why gender is terrible. It is a cage. A violent hierarchy that benefits men. It’s shitty you never fit in, but that doesn’t make you a girl or a woman. Feeling like you don’t belong isn’t exclusive to gender or age. I’ve been anti social and mostly gender non conforming my whole life. I never fit in with my family or kids at school. But that doesn’t make me a man. So, we are at an empasse where I don’t think we will agree on anything.

            As for the article, I haven’t had time to read it and I don’t want to comment until I do. I’m not one who doesn’t care to be willfully ignorant, so I’ll get to itwhen I can.

          • Danielle Matheson

            I’m not sure I feel my other comment was approved or not, but I was thinking further about your simple comment that one can be re socialized. While I think people can undergo personality changes, your socialization as a male is still a filter. You can not be re socialized into being a female. You haven’t lived the life of a girl. A woman is a female who survived girlhood. And socialization falls back on stereotypes, that’s why gender is a dangerous social construct. As arbitrary rules not everyone is going to fit, ever.

  • Tired feminist

    You are male, bud. Males are also victims of male violence. It’s ok to acknowledge that. It’s ok to be male.

    Keep in mind, however, that male-on-male violence is not women’s problem. We already have enough.

  • Raelee

    Yeah… weird how every time a story does prove there’s a reason to worry, it apparently doesn’t count, since the offenders “aren’t real trans”. Every. Single. Time.
    The entire logic is backwards. I haven’t found one argument that makes sense & isn’t contradictory.

  • Danielle Matheson

    I am constantly reminding men (and often libfem women) that men have way more social, political and economic power than women do, so it’s up to them to solve men’s issues. They simply don’t want to not do they care to. It’s much easier to shove women and girls aside for more male entitlement. It’s beyond maddening. It also reminds of the linden garbage that feminism is for everyone! (Barf) We are trying to break the sexist stereotype that makes it out job to save the menz from themselves. It takes up all my time unlearning patriarchal nonsense I’ve been taught my whole life. I don’t have time to fix the menz. Neither does feminism. People just hate that women have a thing that is only ours and they keep trying to take it away and “fix” it. No, after the centuries of rape, beatings, forced marriages, being bargaining tools and literal property of our fathers and husbands, fuck that noise. Feminism is for us, to change all that is still left from those centuries of crap. So fuck your bathroom that matches your “identity” , our real lived experience matters so much more.

  • Danielle Matheson

    Thank you! I no longer shop there. My sister does but she’s totally a libfem. I give her some slack bc she’s my sister and takes care of me as I am disabled, but we no longer discuss feminism. Ironically, my dad agrees with my garden views. As a child of the 60’s, he could’ve been a total gender role enforcer, but he’s not. Obviously he’s not perfect and is still a man but it surprised me that he doesn’t shut me down, get handy and offended, unlike my sister. Sorry for the rant and off topic comment, it’s just you get going and BOOM! life story!

  • Julie Katz

    A male person on estrogen is usually still able to achieve erections and use his penis for intercourse. That they feel better on estrogen is not any more remarkable than if they felt better on Prozac. Estrogen plays an indeterminate role in emotions, but it is likely much smaller than the role seratonin, dopamine, norepinepheren, cortisol, and a 1/2 dozen other hormones that circulate around our human brains do. Females are also not just exposed to estrogen, we also have lutenizing hormones, gonadotropin, estridol, and a few others, all of which live outside the brain and are triggered by ova to start the menstrual cycle. There is nothing remotely similar about how male trans take estrogen and a woman’s hormonal cycle.

    Females who take testosterone absolutely do not grow little penises. Good grief, I can’t believe you actually wrote that. A female with excessive androgens can end up with an enlarged or long clitoris, but a clit is not a little penis except in the minds of people who have no understanding of female anatomy and men who still believe Freud that we’re castrated males. I suggest you google the cliteracy project to gain some understanding of what a clit is and how it functions. It’s a wonderful little nub, or big nub as the case may be, with a lot going on underneath.

    I understand transmen don’t want to use the women’s washroom; I was responding to the male trans narrative justifying their presence in women’s washrooms by asserting that women would not feel comfortable with a bearded muscled female trans in the bathroom and if safety is a legitimate issue for trans that female trans would be safer in the women’s washroom. But yes, as always, the issue is violence males employ to get their way, take what they want, and victimize women and other men. Without their violence, gender roles would have already been smashed and men and women would be free to express their interests, desires, and feelings without having to toe a gendered line or make-up conditions and identities if they don’t. Though I doubt males would be any less inclined towards fetishistic obsessions.