Unisex public toilet

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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 for 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[edit]

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]

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[edit]

Some toilets use a combined gender symbol to indicate a gender-neutral or transgender-friendly bathroom.

Unisex toilets are adopted in the US primarily because increasingly many 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, among these, San Francisco and New York, required that public restroom access be based on persons' perceived gender identity rather than their birth sex.[8]

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

The Vancouver Park Board decided in April 2014 to install unisex toilets in public buildings, with different signs to identify them. Amongst the options discussed was the rainbow triangle (based off 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. Based on the 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 the building codes to require unisex toilets be built in public buildings.This movement, based on commissioner Trevor Loke, was aimed to make everyone feel welcomed and included, who said that: "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 examples of more inclusive initiatives have been to make the washrooms more diverse have focused a lot on language—using just the phrases 'washroom' or 'gender-neutral washroom' in order to be inclusive of all genders and gender identities, 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[edit]

There is a growing recent trend on college campuses in the US of unisex public toilets. Many campuses are acquiring these facilities by renaming already existing restrooms and toilets to be more inclusive. According to a study by the University of Massachusetts there are over 150 college campuses across the US who are creating gender-neutral restrooms. Safety concerns have prompted many colleges to take into considerations actions to implement none gendered bathrooms.[clarification needed] The hope of activists who are trying to get more unisex restrooms on college campus is so that everyone can feel safe and not just gendered individuals.[9][clarification needed]

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

According to a research article done by Olga Gershenson from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, restrooms have always been an issue for certain groups. First women petition for the rights to their own facilities, this occurred all around the world. The next group was racial minorities in the US during the time of segregation. After this fight, people with disabilities took up the issue to get them fully equipped facilities. Their fight ended in changes to building codes to make them more accessible. Now the issue concerns transgender and other gender variant people.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Brighton Council to open 'gender neutral' public toilets as it 'phases out male and female lavatories'". dailymail.co.uk. The Daily Mail. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Judd, Amy. "Vancouver Park Board votes to install gender-neutral washrooms". globalnews.ca. Global News. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Judd, Amy. "Vancouver Park Board asking for input on universal washrooms and signage". http://globalnews.ca/. Global News. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  4. ^ Roberts, Rachel. "Unisex toilets in schools should be avoided at all costs". independent.co.uk. The Independent. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Mass. moves on ‘unisex’ restrooms for transgender students". wn.com. Word News, via the Washington Times. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Chasmar, Jessica. "Mass. moves on ‘unisex’ restrooms for transgender students". washingtontimes.com. The Washington Times. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Gender-Neutral Washrooms". dal.ca. 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". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  9. ^ Bellware, Kim. "Gender-Neutral Bathrooms Are Quietly Becoming The New Thing At Colleges". huffingtonpost.com. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  10. ^ Beemyn, Genny. "Gender-Neutral Restrooms". umass.edu. Stonewall Center, University of Massachusetts. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Gershenson, Olga. "January 2010 The Restroom Revolution: Unisex toilets and campus politics". works.bepress.com. University of Massachusetts - Amherst. 

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