Unisex public toilet
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The term Unisex public toilets (also called gender-inclusive, gender-neutral, mixed-sex,’’’Family’’’ or all-gender toilets) is meant to refer herein to public toilets that are not separated by gender or sex. Unisex public toilets can be designed to benefit a range of people with or without special needs, for example people with disabilities, the elderly, and anyone who needs the help of someone of another gender or sex. They are also valuable for parents wishing to accompany one or more of their children needing a toilet facility.
Unisex public toilets can be used by people of any sex, gender or gender identity, i.e. male, female, transgender, intersex. Gender-neutral or mixed-sex toilet facilities can benefit transgender populations and people outside of the gender binary. Sex-separation in public toilets (or as some prefer sex segregation), as opposed to unisex toilets, is the separation of public toilets into male and female. This separation is sometimes enforced by local laws and building codes.
Key differences between male and female public toilets in most western countries include the presence of urinals for men and boys and sanitary bins for the disposal of menstrual hygiene products for women and girls.
As discussed in the "Theories of Origins" section below, controversy reigns over the origins of sex-separated toilets and their original purposes. Early scholarship claimed that sex-separation emerged as the standard in the nineteenth century due to paternalism and resistance to women entering the workplace. Under this view, opposition to unisex toilets is simply based on outdated Victorian morality concerns and discrimination. However, new scholarship argues that sex-separated bathrooms are not a relatively recent historical development; they date back centuries and have been the dominant approach for as long as time records, although mixed sex bathrooms also existed. Moreover, this new scholarship argues that the key reason for sex-separation was protecting women, girls and children from sexual assault and sexual harassment.
- 1 Terminology
- 2 Designs
- 3 Theories of origins
- 4 Civil rights issues
- 5 Debates
- 6 Locations
- 7 Legislation
- 8 Society and culture
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Several alternative terms are in use for unisex public toilets. Some favor all-gender toilets, gender neutral toilets, gender free toilets or all-user toilets. The "Public Toilet Advocacy Toolkit" by the NGO Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH) in Portland, Oregon (United States) from 2015 uses the term "all-gender". More recently, they have changed to the term "all user". However, some object to the term "gender-neutral" and similar terms, believing that neither the spaces nor the terms are truly neutral. They also object to the replacement of the word "sex" with the word "gender." S persons often express a prefernce for the term "mixed-sex." But whatever one calls them, unisex toilets are all toilets which can (in theory) be used by anybody, regardless of sex, gender identity or presentation.
Some of the unisex toilets described herein are "accessible toilets" which are also referred to as "disabled toilets". This term is generally used when talking about a larger than normal toilet cubicle with handrails, enough space for turning a wheelchair, and other features. These toilets usually have a wheelchair-user sign on the outside door.
In the debate over sex-separation, a focus on the "toilet" may be too narrow in the sense that the debate over toilets is just a subset of a larger debate over intimate spaces that one has a need to access but where one's nakedness might pose issues of vulnerability. These include public changing and bathing or showering spaces. One cannot consider sex-separation in "toilets" without considering also these other types of public spaces. Finally, the debate also involves issues of degree. Should unisex toilets be the dominant standard with some (or no) alternatives or should sex- separated toilets be the standard with some (or no) alternatives? And if there are alternatives, should anyone be required to use a particular set?
Some unisex public toilets are designed to be used by people with disabilities. Many public toilets have either individual or gender-neutral facilities. They can accommodate people with disabilities, elderly persons who may require assistance from a carer of another gender, or other cases where public gender-segregated facilities might lead to discomfort. Toilet facilities for disabled people, especially those reliant on a wheelchair, may be either unisex or gender-specific.
Several types can be distinguished:
- The single occupancy facility where only one single room or enclosure is provided. This room could be used by several people at once, e.g. a whole family, a carer helping a person needing help.
- Multi-user facilities which are open to all and where users may either share sinks in an open area or each have their own sink in their private cubicle, stall or room.
- The re-labelling of existing multi-cubicle public toilets, with no real change. For example, this approach was taken in one area at the Barbican Centre in the UK. Still, the center announced that it would continue to have sex-separated toilets as well.
Provided that more than one toilet is available in unisex restrooms, toilets are accommodated in enclosed cubicles as in sex-segregated toilets. To ensure visual privacy, these should be provided with floor-to-ceiling walls.
Sinks are commonly installed in open arrangement as in sex-segregated toilets and used collectively by people of all gender. Alternatively, a sink can be provided in each cubicle or toilet room, e.g. where the unisex toilet is set up to be used by families and carers.
The issue of urinals is creating somewhat of a conundrum for many unisex restroom designers. In many public toilets, the widespread use of urinals for males means that there are more opportunities to meet their needs. Since about 90% of public toilets are used for urination, there are often regular queues in front of female toilets with unused toilet cubicles in the male area. While toilets are usually located in cubicles with lockable doors, urinals are usually installed freely in rows in gender-separated toilet rooms. This construction leads to a smaller space consumption and thus to more possibilities for urinating, while promoting better hygiene and economic efficiency for men/boys at work/school and elsewhere.
Urinals have primarily been offered in male bathrooms, with female urinals being only a niche product so far. Abolishing all urinals would superficially reduce inequality. However, this would also sacrifice the advantages of urinals and the convenience for male users while doing nothing to improve sanitation or wait time for females. Another possibility would be to offer separate male and female urinals or unisex urinals that can be used by males and females alike, which allows increased flexibility of use. Yet this would raise the problem of arrangement. One option would be to continue to offer urinals in rows, with separation by screens. However, it is questionable whether the less private sphere, compared to cubicle toilets, would be met with acceptance. Due to socio-cultural conventions, the open use of urinals by men/boys in front of women/girls would likely create awkwardness for both genders and would currently seem strange and contrary to common morals and etiquette for many users. There are even more practical issues for females, such as women/girls needing toilet paper, having to lower their pants, and sometimes tending to their menstrual hygiene needs while going to the toilet for urination. An alternative would be to accommodate urinals for both sexes in cubicles or to continue to offer them only in male bathrooms. However, this would at least limit the above-mentioned advantages of urinals.
Urinals arranged in cubicles often could not prevail in previous concepts; the advantages over conventional toilets were not obvious due to the unreduced space requirement. With all things considered, many unisex restroom designers are now creating plans in which urinals would be constructed in an isolated section or corner of the restroom so that they would not be directly visible to anyone in other areas of the restroom. This is seen by many restroom designers as the best possible solution that would balance efficiency with modesty.
Theories of origins
There are competing theories regarding how bathrooms first became separated by sex. Under one theory, offered by Terry Kogan, sex-separation as a standard did not emerge in the U.S. until the late nineteenth century. Under another view, offered in an article published in late 2018 by W. Burlette Carter, sex-separation has long been the standard in the U.S. and Great Britain and most of the world where women's well-being was valued. She argues that when people used chamber pots, sex-separation could be achieved by placing the pot in a separated space. In single-use privies and similar spaces, that separation was achieved by allowing only one "sex" to use the space at a time.  In multi-use spaces, it was achieved either through the same means or by separate spaces for the sexes. According to Carter, the primary reasons for establishing these sex-separated spaces were safety and privacy for women and children. Concerns over pregnancy and procreation were additional concerns. Some of these dovetailed with concerns about rape and others dovetailed with moral views about how and when women should become pregnant (e.g., objections to premarital sex). She notes as well that efforts to create comfortable spaces for transgender and nonbinary people, even by consent, or for those who simply preferred opposite sex spaces, were often resisted or shut down by those in power. She contends that theories that claim sex-separation hurt women, and theories that ignore the historical role that sexual harassment and sexual assault have played in women's history, actually harm women because they erase and/or contort women's history, under a mission of providing relief for other vulnerable groups. .
Carter argues that ancient evidence, including art-work, confirms widespread use of sex-separation, especially in multi-use spaces. The exceptions were where the spaces were intended for amorous purposes by opposite sex couples, where safety was considered not to be at risk, or where women were not valued by society.
It has been argued that the very first gender-segregated toilets were created in 1739 specifically for a ball in a Parisian restaurant. Sheila Cavanaugh has claimed the organizers of the ball made a chamber box (a chamber pot in a box along with a seat) for men in one room and for women in another. Sex-segregated toilets date back to the 18th century in Paris.
Carter dissents from this view as well. Previously, the 1739 ball had not been identified, thus, scholars were citing only sparse secondary reports describing it. Carter identifies it as a masquerade ball held by Louis XV at the Hotel de Ville in Paris for his daughter's marriage. Records still exist providing insight to that event, preserved in the library of the National Institute of Art History in Paris.  Using commemorative programs and other resources, Carter argues that the ball was held for some 14,000 people. Event planners arranged sex-separated multi-use spaces on the lower level of the venue for the use of the invitees. The spaces concerned were multi-use spaces and sentinels were posted on the stairs going down.  Since it was a masquerade ball, the spaces were likely used as both dressing rooms and toilets. She further argues that the ball was not the first instance of sex-separation. 
Under the Kogan theory the decision to create separate toilets in the U.S. as a standard emerged in the nineteenth century as a reflection of their shift and growth in society. He argues that, as women entered the workforce and factories, they needed to have a place to relieve themselves. He argues that Massachusetts passed the first law mandating sex-separation in 1887. It was titled "An Act To Secure Proper Sanitary Provisions in Factories and Workshops." The law required establishments to have separate privies in businesses. separate bathrooms.  While Kogan acknowledges that there existed separate public toilets for males and females prior to 1887, he argues that the provision, titled "An Act To Secure Proper Sanitary Provisions In Factories and Workshops," was the first. It called for suitable and separate restrooms for females in the workplace. Others have made a similar claim. They argue that usually there was a room for both sexes and that it was not until the Victorian era, starting in Great Britain, that gender separation began in the toilet area. According to Barbara Penner, professor of architectural history at University College London, this was an expression of the gender ideology of that era:
Prior to the modern industrial period, she argues, toilets were frequently communal and mixed. It was only in the nineteenth century, with increasingly strict prohibitions on bodily display and the emergence of a rigid ideology of gender, that visual privacy and the spatial segregation of the sexes were introduced into lavatory design, and they continue to be its dominant features.— Barbara Penner (2001): "A world of unmentionable suffering: Women's public conveniences in Victorian London"
Carter again disagrees. She notes that prior to the 1887 Masschusetts statute, in Massachusetts, across the United States, in Great Britain and in Europe at least, sex-separation was the norm.  She notes, for example, that Massachusetts had statewide regulations that required sex-separation in particular venues such as schools before 1887. Thus, the Massachusetts statute was definitely not the first law mandating sex-separation in Massachusetts.
Moreover, Carter argues that safety was the key reason for the statutes that began to appear during the Industrial Revolution, although other reasons also may have been used to justify sex-separation. In New York, for example, factory inspectors asked for separate bathrooms out of concerns of women who came to them complaining of sexual harassment. These complaints are recorded in New York factory inspector reports a year before the Massachusetts statute was passed. Others argued for complete space separation citing the pressure on women to engage in sexual behavior to keep their jobs.  Authorities who cared about these issues were trying to respond to those concerns by mandating separation. Indeed, she argues that these laws were actually among the first anti-sexual harassment laws in the nation. While women or anyone could use common law "assault" laws to sue for sexual harassment, and prosecutors sometimes prosecuted it as assault, often many victims in the workplace were afraid to press charges for fear of losing work.  She further argues that the fault of early approaches was that they lacked an overarching legal structure to penalize harassers. Another fault was that they did not take into account any need to protect vulnerable male-bodied persons. Such persons included not only gender nonconforming persons, but also the poor and otherwise vulnerable classes of men whose complaints were less likely to be heard in a world that the powerful ruled and insisted on a particular model of masculinity.
Noting that ancient sources also reflect sex-separation in intimate spaces, Carter argues that the earliest written reference to sex-separation in the United States that she found was from 1786, a year before the U.S. Constitution was signed. A traveler described bathers using a public spring called Healing Springs, in South Carolina. The bathers would hang Aprons from a tree to mark when the women were bathing and used Hats to mark when the men were bathing. Within the culture of that time, Carter argues these items practices were tantamount to hanging "women" and "men" signs. 
Toilets also were assigned strong moral overtones. While public water closets were considered necessary for sanitation reasons, they were viewed as offending public sensibilities. It has been said that because public facilities were associated with access to public spaces, extending these rights to women was viewed as "immoral" and an "abomination". As a result of Victorian era codes, women were delegated to the private sphere, away from the public, fulfilling their roles as dutiful wives and mothers where any association with sexuality or private body parts was taboo. For women, the female lavatory in a public space was associated with danger, unrespectability, and even immoral sexual conduct. While conceding these overtones, Carter does not view them as always negative. Since opposite sex behavior resulted in procreation (especially in a time when there was little or no access to birth control), and children then had to be supported, governments had an interest in prohibiting the opposite sex use of public spaces for amorous purposes.
Kogan argues there were four primary rationales for "sex-segregated" toilets as detailed by state statutes and related literature during this time period: sanitation, women's privacy, the protection of women's bodies, which were seen as weaker, and to protect social morality especially as it pertained to the nineteenth century ideology of separate spheres. Subsequently, other states created similar laws, often by amending existing protective labor legislation. 43 states had passed similar legislation by 1920.
Carter disagrees with Kogan's claim, arguing that this list is far too narrow. She argues that safety and privacy were the two main goals of sex- separation, although she acknowledges that other factors such as morality played roles. Carter also argues that, whether it arises out of ignorance of women's history or a dismissal of the relevance of women's history, theories that ignore sexual harassment and sexual assaults as real factors in women's lives also ignore and erase the history of women's struggles for equality. Across the globe, that struggle, she argues is intricately tied up with efforts to find protection from sexual assault and sexual abuse. The bathroom histories that claim patriarchy and sexism drove sex-separation treat women's experiences as if they did not exist and therefore result in silencing women to gain relief primarily for the male-bodied. Such approaches pose a clear conflict of interest between protecting women and acknowledging their struggles and achieving the integration of trans persons, especially male-bodied transpersons. She argues that women and their supporters should push back on theories that erase them and their experiences from the pages of history.<>
Civil rights issues
The presence or absence of public toilets has also long been a reflection of a society’s class inequalities and social hierarchies.
Public toilets and the poor
The poor have long been denied safe sanitation. During the 19th century in England and the U.S., concerns over public health and sanitation led to the sanitarian movement in which citizens rallied for better sanitary conditions and advocated for better public waterworks systems and plumbing. Although sanitary reform continued through the 1900s, it became a source of political debate.
Public toilets and women/girls
The lack of public toilets for women reflects the exclusion of females from the public sphere. Prior to the twentieth century, after leaving their parent's home, women were expected to maintain a career as homemaker and wife. Thus, safe and private public toilets were rarely available for women. The result was that they were often restricted in how far they could travel away from home without returning. Alternatively, they had to make do in the public streets as best they could. They often experienced sexual harassment as men tried to "sneak a peak" or otherwise bothered them. Women who were not in the preferred classes experienced even worse if they could not secure safety and privacy even at home or in their workplaces. There problems continue for women in all parts of the world.
The practice of pay toilets emerged in the late 19th century. In these spaces, public toilets could only be accessed by paying a fee. Sex-separated pay toilets were available at the Chicago World's Fair (US) in 1893. Women complained that these were practically unavailable to them, authorities allowed them to be free, but on Fridays only. Activist groups including The Committee to End Pay Toilets in America claimed that such practices disadvantaged women/girls because men/boys did not have to pay for urinals. As an act of protest against this phenomenon, in 1969 California Assemblywoman March Fong Eu destroyed a toilet on the steps of the California State Capitol. Until 1992, U.S. female senators had to use toilets located on different floor levels than the ones they were working on, a reflection of their intrusion in an all-male profession.
Some opponents argue that eliminating sex-separation entirely or identifying unisex spaces as the norm is not, in fact, inclusive and that the approach excludes women.
Public toilets and gender nonconforming persons
Given the binary norms of earlier times, gender nonconforming persons would have been required to use public facilities according to their biological sex. Some evidence suggests that they departed from these rules when in private spaces. Carter cites the masquerade balls as one type of event that allowed such blurring of gender/sex lines.  However, she notes that authorities and religious leaders often tried to shut down these events, objecting to them as immoral for their and identifying their acceptance of opposite sex mingling and the inclusion of sexual minorities. 
Advocates today say that all-gender restrooms are designed to ensure that restrooms are fully accessible to all members of society. They argue that All-Gender/mixed-sex restrooms can eliminate discrimination and harassment for people who may be perceived to be in the "wrong" bathroom. Today, many advocates see unisex toilets as an alternative to those separated for boys and girls. Transgender rights advocates have asserted that transgender students should not be forced to use unisex toilets, if that is not what they prefer and should be allowed to use the toilet matching their gender identity. Some[who?] argue that they should be not be questioned and required to prove their gender-identity in order to make this choice.
Public toilets and racial segregation
The oppression of African Americans in world history and in the United States in particular was also advanced by the denial of safe and private public toilet spaces and the restriction of human rights, including restriction in the right to use the toilet. For example, slaves captured and held at Goree Island, just off the coast of Senegal, were held in cave- like rooms in the lower level of a "slave house," prior to being forced onto slave ships. The men were held separately from the women and the children were separate from those two groups. The men were liberated once a day to go to toilet. The men were allowed to go to toilet in the courtyard; the women's cell had a hole in the ground apart for them to use apart from men.
After slavery ended in the U.S., southern states began to attempt to replicate its and social economic oppression (and the advantages it gave to those classified as "white") by passing laws requiring that blacks and whites be separated in all public and private venues. These laws were called "Jim Crow" laws. In the Jim Crow period, public toilets were segregated by race along with schools, water fountains, spaces in government buildings, hotels, restaurants, hospitals etc. Strategies to keep African Americans out of sight included the "basement solution;" by locating public toilets for black people in the basement next to janitor supply rooms, Jim Crow laws were able to maintain separation of the races. Black workers often had to walk long distances to get to the bathrooms they were assigned.
Some advocates and scholars have tied toilet sex-separation to segregation based on race discrimination. The term "sex segregation" is sometimes used to draw this tie. Advocates of this view argue that these approaches share a theme in which a warning is issued against the looming threats: violence and sexual assaults would increase. Yet others argue that, while all discrimination has commonalities, the sex-separation within racial groups, even going back to slavery, suggests that the parallel regarding toilets is historically flawed. Carter notes that slave ships were usually separated by sex, a fact that suggests that racial segregation and sex segregation did not have the same etymologies and that factors other that simple animus may distinguish the situations. Moreover, women of color and poor women were often denied the safety and privacy that sex-separation afforded; white women were given these amenities because they were white. This denial was a sign of discrimination against based on race and/or poverty, a sign of society assigning a lesser value to them as women, and not a sign of advancement or enlightenment. Men also experienced different treatment, not based on class, but based on race, with black men having less favorable facilities. Transgender persons would have been on both sides of these racial lines. Carter also points out that, generally speaking, the establishment of sex-separated bathrooms alone was not originally intended to be oppressive (as slavery and racial oppression was clearly meant to be), although there is evidence that when sexual minorities sought to create safe spaces that reimagined sex and gender lines their efforts were resisted.
Social exclusion and safety issues
Advocates argue that public toilets and sanitation facilities have historically not met the needs of the LGBTI communities. They argue that this is an issue with respect to the human right to water and sanitation and also from the perspective of the Sustainable Development Goal 6, which aim for universal access to sanitation and their vision of gender equality.
These advocates argue that for many genderqueer people and people of the third sex, such as intersexuals, butch lesbians or people with a non-binary transgender identity, it is difficult or even impossible to go to a gender-separated toilet, as they do not feel that they belong clearly to any sex. Sometimes these groups of people are even exposed to hostility when visiting the toilet. Parents of small children also face a dilemma if they want to accompany their small (opposite sex) child to the toilet.
Butch women are often run out of 'women's restrooms', gender non-conforming people lack safe space to pee, trans women who do not experience passing privileges on a routine basis are discriminated against.— Justin Adkins, Trans-Activist
Sex-separation of public toilets began gaining traction as a controversial issue for transgender identity in US politics in 2010. It has been argued that "walking into a toilet segregated by sex requires that each of us in effect self-segregate" and that some transgender people report being challenged on what public toilet they choose to use and subsequently "do their best to forego use of public toilets altogether".
Many questions concerning exactly how social and legal enforcement of the division should take place has been the subject of much debate. Transgender people often face harassment based on their choice in public toilets regardless of whether they use the toilet room corresponding to their gender identity or their sex assigned at birth, which has led many activists in the transgender community to call for legal protection for people wishing to use restrooms which most accurately reflect their gender identity. Others have questioned the need for gender-based toilet segregation in the first place. In addition to transgender issues, those questioning the need for gendered bathrooms cite dilemmas caused by the need for caretakers of dependents (who include children, the elderly, and the mentally and physically disabled) to enter the toilet room used by their charge, regardless of which toilet rooms they may use themselves.
Senfronia Thompson, the Democratic Party's black representative in the Texas House of Representatives, criticized the current situation:
White. Colored. I was living through that era … bathrooms divided us then, and it divides us now. America has long recognized that separate but equal is not equal at all.— Senfronia Thompson
Advocates also point to evidence that demonstrates that transgender people and gender non-conforming people experience substantial and significant harassment in public toilets. One survey of transgender populations conducted in Washington, DC, by the group DC Trans Coalition, "found that 70 percent of survey respondents report experiencing verbal harassment, assault, and being denied access to public toilets." It also found that "54 percent of all respondents reported having some sort of physical problem from trying to avoid using public toilets, such as dehydration, kidney infections, and urinary tract infections" making access to safe restrooms a public health issue. However, this research focused on transpersons and did not cover whether women or some significant classes of them would be deterred to going into unisex bathrooms.
Safety and privacy for women
Others defend laws that require persons to use public toilets corresponding to their sex assigned at birth or the provision of a third option with the retention of sex-separation. Some advocates of these laws claim that women and children will face increased incidences of harassment and sexual assault in unisex public toilets.
Some women's groups, including some (but not all) feminist groups (including some lesbian feminist groups), have opposed them as well. In the UK, groups like WomansPlaceUK have led a charge to secure "safe" spaces for women, arguing that sexual harassment dangers would be increased for women. They assert that they affirm the existence of transgender people and their right to protection but that women's rights, as they see them, must also be recognized. In this respect, debate has centered around UK proposals to amend the Gender Recognition Act to allow self-identification even for entry into spaces designated for women. Supporters of unisex spaces and access by self-declaration have rejected these claims. In her 2018 article, Carter argues that the scholarship on the history of sex-separation is simply wrong and the wide dissemination of false claims has hurt women. She argues that women should push back on these false narratives while acknowledging the needs for more innovative solutions. Women's Place UK has held discussions in the UK some of which have been shut down by opponents. Women's UK has accused opponents, including those within the UK Labour party of trying to silence women who speak out..
Transgender advocates have focused attention on rebutting whether transgender people will attack women. They also focus on the experience of transgender people. By one report, 70% of transgender people report facing harassment or assault while trying to use a restroom in the District of Columbia.
Some religious groups have opposed such options arguing safety and also morality. Some christian conservatives have compared the introduction of unisex toilets with the abolition of Bible reading in state schools. Gabriele Bublies-Leifert, member of the German right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) regards the unisex toilet as a danger for German women and relates it to sexual assaults by "criminal foreigners".
The concept of the unisex toilet became a political emotive word, particularly within the Alt Right and paleoconservatism, whereby this pars pro toto stands for the abolition of gender boundaries, gender mainstreaming and liberalism. For instance, Alex Jones has said he regards the unisex toilet as a major threat to public morality.
In the 21st century, with increased exposure of the transgender community, there have been some initiatives calling for gender-neutral public toilets, instead of only male and female ones, to better accommodate genderqueer individuals. Political activists have drawn on the commonality between public toilets being segregated formerly by race and still by sex. This has become an increasingly contentious issue, as shown in the battles over North Carolina's Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act 2016. Transgender and gender non-conforming persons also may be subject to embarrassment, harassment, or even assault or arrest by others offended by the presence of a person they interpret as being of a different anatomical sex to themselves. Several groups and organizations, whether in person or online, exist in order to combat the discriminatory attitudes and bills that oppose transgender individuals. For instance, the Transgender Law Center's "Peeing in Peace" is a pamphlet that serves as a resource guide full of information on harassment, safe bathroom campaigns, legal information, and more.
Opponents of unisex bathrooms have often referenced concerns that women and children will be assaulted in bathrooms. Bathrooms are usually isolated spaces and are designed so to be virtually soundproof. National news rarely reports stories of bathroom attacks, but one clear evidence in local news that bathroom safety remains an issue for women. While numerous articles of bathroom attacks, even in just the past three years, could be cited, a few will suffice here to make the point. The recording of persons in private spaces without their consent is also an issue.  The #MeToo movement has underscored that sexual harassment disproportionately affects women and girls and remains a pressing concern for them.
Some argue that females are not only disadvantaged by the fact that no urinals can be (easily) provided for them and thus the possibilities for urination are limited. The claim that a two-tier system is also indirectly generated via what they called the "toilet apartheid" by excluding women/girls from important social networking processes in male toilets. Mary Anne Case, feminist and professor of law at the University of Chicago, found out that important agreements and decisions by men/boys are sometimes made at the urinal where females are currently excluded. Accordingly, she argues that "Equality will never be achieved while sex-segregated restrooms persist!"
Comfort and safety
In both developed and developing countries, many of the organizations active in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) provision have asserted in the past that separate toilets for boys and girls at school are very important to make girls feel comfortable and safe using the sanitation facilities at schools. This concern could potentially apply to boys as well, especially if open urinals are maintained. As an alternative, some argue that unisex school toilets could be provided at schools in addition to facilities that are separated by gender (which is often the case already in the case of toilets for people with disabilities).
WaterAid is researching options of appropriate unisex public toilets in developing countries. In 2017 they stated that those kinds of gender-neutral/mixed-sex toilets, where people can access all toilets irrespective of their gender, is not recommended in contexts where it may increase the risk of violence against women or transgender people, or where it is deemed culturally inappropriate. Many women, especially those who have been victims of sexual abuse in the past, have asserted the right to continue using all-female bathrooms to minimize the risk of any kind of sexual harassment in public restrooms.
Some activists favour 'third gender' public toilets which would only be used by transgender people. The degree of agreement or disagreement on such issues is difficult to gauge. However, this is still being debated. Some advocates argue that it would reinforce stigma and result in people being banned from accessing the toilets of the gender they identify with. It has been argued that in some African countries where transgender people are being prosecuted, this option would likely bring no benefit at all to them.
Especially where space is limited, the double design of the sanitary facilities is not possible or only possible to a limited extent. Unisex toilets are often used in many public transport systems, such as rail vehicles or airplanes.
Women/girls often spend more time in toilet rooms than men/boys, both for physiological and cultural reasons. The requirement to use a cubicle rather than a urinal means that urination takes longer and sanitation is a far greater issue, often requiring more thorough hand washing. Females also make more visits to washrooms. Urinary tract infections and incontinence are more common in females. Pregnancy, menstruation, breastfeeding, and diaper-changing increase usage. The elderly, who are disproportionately female, take longer and more frequent toilet visits. Unisex public toilets can alleviate this problem by providing equal sanitation space for all genders, eliminating the prospect of unused cubicles in the male bathroom.
The consolidation of previously gender-separated toilets or the construction of new unisex toilets is sometimes resisted due to administrative and building law difficulties. Also, where bathrooms are located are sometimes dictated by existing plumbing design. If the only way to build gender neutral/mixed sex bathrooms is to locate them in isolated spaces a long way from persons in charge of supervising the space, such a design may be objectionable on safety grounds. Some argue that laws requiring that women and men be treated the same in bathroom access is unfair. Since the 1980s, "potty parity" activists campaigned for laws requiring more female-designated public toilets than male-designated public toilets in public buildings, based on the idea that women require more time to use the toilet and thus women's toilets tend to have longer lines. California passed the first law of this kind in 1987, and as of 2009 twenty states in the US have passed similar legislation.
Unisex toilets at private companies
Unless otherwise prohibited by law (and when required by law), private companies can provide unisex bathooms. In March 2017 Yelp announced that they will add a gender neutral toilet finder feature on their app. Yelp was one of over 50 companies that signed a "friend-of-the-court" amicus brief in favor of a transgender high school student Gavin Grimm who claims that his school board denied him access to the boys' bathroom in school and thereby violating Title IX. HRC President Chad Griffin stated on the brief that "These companies are sending a powerful message to transgender children and their families that America's leading businesses have their backs."
Unisex toilets in educational institutions
The Stonewall Centre says that certain people feel threatened using facilities that do not adhere to their gender identity, and that this can become an issue when students are harassed by their peers. Advocates argue that forcing trans / non-binary students to use normative gendered restrooms can stigmatize them daily by singling them out. Once again, the response of those opposing such spaces, or opposing them as the norm is safety and privacy for women.
Many colleges and universities (such as Oberlin College in Ohio) have had gender-neutral or all gender bathrooms or mixed-sex as early as 2000. Overwhelmingly, institutions that offer unisex spaces still also offer sex-separated spaces. The University of California at Los Angeles offers more than 160 unisex bathrooms on campus, but all are single stall. Other collegiate institutions have moved toward creating some all-gender/mixed-sex public toilets. According to a University of Massachusetts Amherst LGBTQ advocacy organization, The Stonewall Centre, there were more than 150 campuses in the US in 2014 with gender-neutral public toilets.
In February 2016, Michigan was the first state in the US to pass a bill that forces transgender students in public schools to use sanitation facilities that correspond with their 'chromosomes and anatomy' at birth.
The University of Oklahoma continually adds gender-neutral restrooms to their campus to accommodate students who may require use of a less excessively gendered bathroom. (Students that fit under this umbrella may identify as non-heterosexual). As of February 2014, the university had 13 unisex bathrooms. Recently,[when?] the university has vowed to include a gender neutral bathroom in all new buildings to be constructed.
There are over 150 college campuses across the US that are creating unisex public toilet or "gender-neutral restrooms". In March 2016, New York City private college Cooper Union moved to remove gender designations from campus bathrooms. In October 2016, University of California Berkeley converted several restrooms into gender-neutral washrooms.
In 2015, Scotland aimed to create its first unisex toilet in Strathean Community Campus in Crieff, a secondary school.[better source needed] In 2015, Unisex toilets were set to be introduced into every new school to be built in Scotland in a campaign to eradicate bullying. All future primary and secondary schools will have non-segregated toilets. The Scottish Futures Trust which is in charge of Scotland's government's schools building program has already trialled this in one primary school and two secondary schools.[better source needed] In March 2017, the Glasgow City Council announced that toilets in school will no longer be labeled as 'girls' and 'boys' but instead be labelled as unisex to help students who may be struggling with the issue of gender identity. This will be implemented in three schools first.
In the United Kingdom, all-gender restrooms 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'. Other British universities including Bradford Union, Sussex and Manchester, have already or are in the process of building unisex facilities.
Unisex toilets have appeared in China since before 2013 in Shenyang and Chengdu by 2015. However, it was not until November 19, 2016 that Shanghai China opened its first public unisex toilet near the Zhangjiabin River in a park, in the Pudong district. Many of these toilets have opened in high-traffic areas for the convenience of users as opposed to existing for the benefit of those in need of a gender neutral toilet, for example sexual minorities or those who are disabled. In May 2016 a Beijing- based non-governmental organization launched an 'All Gender Toilets' campaign to bring awareness to this issue in China. This resulted around 30 locations opening unisex public toilets.
In 2014 the Indian Supreme Court gave transgender people, also known as 'hijras', recognition with a third gender. This legislation included creating separate toilets for transgender people in public spaces where transgender people are often met with violence and hostility. The two-judge Supreme Court bench was led by Justice KS Radhakrishnan, who said, "The court order gives legal sanctity to the third gender. The judges said the government must make sure that they have access to medical care and other facilities like separate wards in hospitals and separate toilets". In 2017 The Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation sent out guidelines to the Swachh Bharat Mission decreeing that members who are part of the transgender community should be allowed to use the public toilet they are most comfortable with.
As of 2016, no laws were in place regarding the usage of public toilets in relation to gender identity. There may, however, be occasional signs outside public toilets to indicate that the stall is "gender free". The Tokyo city government is planning to install one unisex toilet in at least seven out of eleven of the buildings being used for the Olympic Games in 2020.
LGBT rights in Nepal have existed for a number of years but it wasn't until Sunil Babu Pant who was elected into Parliament, used part of the Parliamentarian Development Fund to build the first two gender neutral toilets in Nepalganj, one of which is in Bageshwori Park. Starting in 2014 The Nepal Country Report, A Participatory Review and Analysis of the Legal and Social Environment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Persons and Civil Society recommended that in schools separate toilets or gender neutral toilets should be built for transgender students.
The term "kathoeys" used to describe effeminate male-bodied people, for whom schools have started opening gender-segregated toilets for since 2003. After legislation passed, in 2004 a private vocational college in Chiang Mai Thailand gave 15 'kathoey' students the opportunity to use toilet facilities that were solely for them, referred to as 'pink lotus' public toilets. Alliance organizations in Thailand such as the Thai Transgender Alliance and the Transferral Association of Thailand were created to support kathoey people such as by helping create separate public toilet facilities. Kathoey enfranchisement was made helped by the creation of separate toilets at the Lummahachaichumpol Temple in Rayong.
To understand the structure of U.S. law, one must understand that each of the states in the U.S. is a sovereign with the ability to make its own laws, except as carved out in the Constitution. To pass federal (national) laws, the government has to justify that the topic affects some national interest as defined in that document. For example, the law may apply only to federal property. Alternatively, a law may apply to state property, but it might be argued to affect a federal interest. Moreover, each state may delegate powers to its local governments. Thus, there are federal, state and local laws that govern toilets and other intimate spaces. Additionally, Federal or state agencies may be authorized to issue regulations to further clarify laws, but they are only valid if they are consistent with the overarching legislation under which they were issued. Building laws (including regulations) in some states require that toilets be physically separated for both sexes, making unisex toilets virtually illegal. Unisex toilets have been increasingly put into operation in Universities and large cities, although most of these institutions also offer the alternative of sex-separated spaces.
On the federal level, the U.S. Department of Labor is in charge of workplace restrooms, which means setting state guidelines through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). For non-work related restroom guidelines, the Department of Health and Human Services governs regulations. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") has also played a role in interpreting federal statutes and enforcing them. Two statutes relevant to bathrooms are Title VII (nondiscrimination in the workplace) and Title IX (nondiscrimination in educational opportunity based on sex). These are further discussed below at Emerging National Legal Developments in the United States.
US building codes
Building codes may be adopted by statute or regulation. They may require sex-separation (or require unisex toilets). New building codes usually do not apply retroactively. Thus, building owners may choose not to update existing features because it allows them to continue following the older building codes that govern those older features. These regulations are mostly based on the precedent created by original legislation, though they sometimes also work to eliminate the longer wait time females often face by creating a ratio of more female restrooms than male restrooms.
US local ordinances
In most jurisdictions, local governments have the ability to pass ordinances, so long as they do not conflict with state law. Cities of San Francisco(CA), Philadelphia(PA), Seattle(WA), Washington(DC), West Hollywood(CA), Austin(TX), and the US states of Vermont and California - have passed measures mandating that single-occupancy bathrooms in public spaces be labeled as gender-neutral.
The City Council of Portland, Oregon passed an ordinance for "all user restrooms" in 2015. This ordinance directed all city bureaus to convert all "single-user gender-specific restrooms" into "all-user restrooms" within six months.
The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, recommends that employers grant access, and use, to public toilets according to an employee's "full time gender presentation", and provides a list of recommendations for employers on how to do so.
On September 29, 2016 Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation (Assembly Bill 1732) after being approved by the Assembly and Senate which meant California became the first state in the US to require all single-occupancy public toilets to be gender-neutral since March 1, 2017. This includes California schools, government buildings, businesses and public toilets. Legislation has also been proposed in California that "requires...private buildings open to the public, as specified, to maintain at least one safe, sanitary, and convenient baby diaper changing station that is accessible to women and men". Since California, New York, the District of Columbia and other jurisdictions have followed although the numbers are still in the minority. 
In February 2016, city of Charlotte North Carolina adopted an ordinance which, it said, was intended to allow transgender persons a right to access bathrooms according to gender identity. The preexisting ordinance, in § 12-58 prohibited discrimination race, religion or national origin. In addition, the preexisting ordinance in § 12-59 banned discrimination based on sex but specifically exempted bathrooms, lockerooms and other intimate spaces from sex discrimination prohibitions, thus allowing separation based on sex. The ordinance did not ban discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. By the February 2016 amendment, the City Council added gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and marital status to the protected categories. It also deleted this provision that allowed separation based on "sex." In so doing, it essentially eliminated the word "sex" from the city ordinance and leaving the term gender. The North Carolina legislature reacted by passing a bill called HB2. In addition to making other changes, the bill defined the issue of bathroom access as one of statewide concern, defined sex as biological. It required that all bathrooms be separated by biological sex. It did allow for business owners to apply for a waiver to make single-entry bathrooms all-gender/mixed-sex. Afterward, spurred by advocacy groups, celebrities, groups and businesses joined together in a boycott of the state. Later, in a "compromise," the legislature agreed to repeal HB2, but it also barred localities from making any changes regarding bathrooms until 2020.
Shortly after HB2 was passed, in May 2016, in the last year of President Obama's presidency, the U.S. Justice Department sued North Carolina over its 'bathroom bill' in order to stop its implementation. Moreover, advocates claim that businesses in North Carolina have enforced toilet restrictions on transgender customers at their discretion. Mississippi also limited public toilet usage through the enactment of a law that protects religious beliefs, citing: "male (man) or female (woman) refers to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth," which does not consider transgender and intersex people. Later, however, the Justice Department, under President Trump, withdrew its opposition to this and other such state laws and policies.
State legislatures in Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas have proposed bills that would restrict public toilet access to access on the basis of sex as biologically defined. Some of these laws allow the establishment of single stall separate toilets that can be used by all genders/both sexes. The National Center for Transgender Equality calls these bills discriminatory.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education, under President Barack Obama issued "guidance" to state and private educational institutions stating that these institutions had to allow transgender students to use bathrooms according to their gender identity. The Obama guidance suggested that schools and private institutions risked federal funding if they did not comply.
How the guidance was issued was controversial. Guidance procedures are normally issued only to other federal agencies; These guidances are then sometimes shared with state entities and private institutions as advisory, but they are normally not compulsive. While agencies can issue regulations that are consistent with existing law, they cannot exceed or change the law. Moreover, those regulations must comply with the U.S. Administrative Procedure Act (United States) "APA." That Act requires notice to the public and a period for comments. Opponents argued that using the joint guidance was inappropriate and was designed to circumvent the APA. The Department of Justice, the Department of Education, advocacy groups and private litigants brought cases to enforce the joint guidance interpretation.
One of those cases, G.G. v. Gloucester School Board, reached the Supreme Court in 2016. However, the election of Donald Trump as President in November of that year derailed the case. On February 22, 2017, about a month after the inauguration, the government, under new leadership, withdrew the May 13 guidance. In withdrawing the guidance, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated in a letter, "The prior guidance documents did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX. ... Congress, state legislatures, and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue." On March 6, 2017, the Supreme Court determined that, in light of the changed position of the government, the case, should be vacated and the case remanded for further consideration in the lower courts.
The EEOC is a key U.S. agency that enforces federal workplace rules. States also have their own rules but in a conflict, if constitutional, federal law is supreme. A key statute is Title VII. Title VII, passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination in the workplace "because of" of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Title VII does not mention sexual orientation or gender identity.
Although few dispute that Congress was thinking about gender identity or sexual orientation in 1964, advocates have argued that sexual orientation and gender identity are included in the law's reference to "sex." In 2012, the EEOC adopted this view. It ruled in Macy v. Holder, a case involving federal employees, that Title VII required that "gender identity" be treated the same as "sex." It also ruled soon thereafter that a transgender person had to be afforded access to a bathroom matching the person's gender identity without a requirement of surgery or status identification. These decisions departed from then existing legal precedent as well as the EEOC's own long line of precedents. The EEOC began to bring and support lawsuits across the country to enforce its interpretation. Citing the EEOC's holding, several courts later followed the EEOC's interpretation, although some rejected it.
Cases involving another statute, Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in education based on sex are in the pipeline.
Currently, in the United States, the highest court, the Supreme Court had before it the opportunity to consider two cases raising the issue of whether sex and gender should be considered the same in a federal statutes or under the Constitution. Two of the cases involved the meaning of "sex" under Title VII.
One case that the Court has been asked to review is EEOC v. RG & GR Funeral Homes (No. 18-107) (Sup. Ct. 2018). The case involves a transgender woman who was employed with a funeral home. The funeral home required its employees to wear uniforms and assigned those uniforms based on biological sex. After transitioning, the employee she stated her desire to wear the uniform designated for females. The funeral home's owner indicated that the arrangement was not acceptable given stated religious views and the religious concerns of customers using the funeral home's services. When the parties could not reach agreement, the employer fired her. After receiving a complaint, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued the funeral home on behalf of the employee.
If the Supreme Court were to agree with the EEOC's position, that sex and gender are the same within the meaning of Title VII, that ruling would ensure access to bathrooms in the workplace by virtue of gender identity and self identification. A finding against that position would deny that access and likely leave the question of access to local authorities. The current question before the Supreme Court is whether or not to accept the cases for review. If it does, and most commentators expect that it will, then the Court will set a time for briefing and oral argument.
The EEOC brought the RG & GR Funeral Homes case originally under the administration of President Barack Obama. At the time, all of the members were Obama appointees. It was then supported by the Department of Justice, the chief law enforcement department overall in the United States. After the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, the Department of Justice came under new leadership and reversed its position. It argued that the EEOC's position was inconsistent with the law and was not a fair interpretation of Title VII. It also determined that only it, and not the EEOC, could appear before the Supreme Court to represent the rights of the United States in litigation. Given that the department was no longer advocating for the plaintiff, the ACLU stepped in to represent the plaintiff. The Department of Justice now argues that while Title VII gives some limited protections to transgender persons, the word "sex" is not the same as "gender identity" under the statute. (For a full list of all documents filed in the case, including the Department of Justice Brief see the Scotusblog.com, a private site that follows Supreme Court cases and reproduces documents filed in them.) Moreover, Congress also could not agree on new appointments to the EEOC by the end of 2018. The body, now down to two commissioners. It is also has no General Counsel and is without a quorum until new confirmations are made. (The U.S. Senate confirms all Presidential nominees. Republicans now control the Senate by a three-vote majority, which means that they will have leverage to confirm persons who favor their interpretations of Title VII to the EEOC.)
As of January 2019, it appears that the Supreme Court has deferred consideration of Title VII cases until next term which begins in October 2019. The Court's deferral affords the opportunity for other cases raising similar issues to make their way up the pipeline to the Court and for lower courts to give their input on the question before the High Court finally reaches it. It also allows other cases raising the status of transgender persons under similar statutes such as Title IX (banning denials of educational opportunity based on "sex") to be considered in lower courts and to make their way up.
One has seen similar reversals at the federal level with respect to other statutes such as Title IX which prohibits denials of educational opportunity based on sex. In May 2016 the U.S. Department of Education and the Justice Department under the Obama Administration indicated that single-sex schools and schools receiving federal money must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. That guidance was later withdrawn by the Department of Justice under President Trump.
Currently,[clarification needed] in the U.S., each state, county, and city government enacts its own legislation governing how it will or will not address the rights of LGBT individuals; this includes provision of public toilets.
Society and culture
In the Netherlands a protest movement has formed under the name of Zeikwijven ("the wild-peeing women"), which advocates urination equality and takes action against the discrimination of women through limited possibilities of micturition. The initiative was triggered after 23-year-old Geerte Piening was sentenced to a fine for urinating in public on the street. Her complaint was rejected on the judicial grounds that Piening should have used a street urinal common in the Netherlands. The objection that this was designed only for men was not accepted: "it may not be comfortable, but it is possible". According to one campaign initiator, the problem is that "it isn't possible for women to urinate in a decent, hygienic and dignified manner in a public urinal designed for men."
As part of this campaign, women in the Netherlands began to urinate demonstratively in public urinals for men. Meanwhile, the Dutch city authorities are planning to increasingly offer an unisex version of the Urilift street urinals, which are now available in Dutch city centres and can be used comfortably by men and women.
In April 2014, the Vancouver Park Board decided to install all-gender restrooms 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 Global News, a Canadian 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).
In contemporary times, there are gender neutral toilets in some public spaces in the United States. Despite this, transgender and non-conforming gendered people are still sometimes subject to visual and/or verbal scrutiny; this is reinforced by the architectural design and heteronormative gendered codes of conduct that are still present within the US. On the other hand, Carter argues that there are legitimate safety questions and, while the transgender population has concerns, the sole determinant of safety cannot be simply the needs of transgender populations (and particularly the male-bodied populations). The safety of women has largely been disregarded in scholarship intended to support transgender persons. Thus the stories of women and their histories have been suppressed.
Protests and clashes
While some communities have accepted gender neutral/mixed space toilets, when gender neutral/mixed space toilets have been implemented without wide public embrace, backlash has occurred. After backlash, and complaints primarily from women, the Barbican Centre in the UK was required to reconsider its original design. They later issued a statement promising they would keep sex separated toilets as well. In Los Angeles in 2016 there were violent clashes between supporters and opponents of toilets. Also, the newly installed unisex toilets at the German Bielefeld University have repeatedly been vandalized. In the UK, the advocacy group Resisters plastered stickers all over the UK to protest what they called the confiscation of women's spaces. The stickers were in the shape of a penis and stated, "Women Don't Have Penises." Some[who?] called the behavior insulting to transgender persons and "hate speech."  But those resisting unisex toilets have also faced backlash. The advocacy group Womans Place UK faced a bomb threat and efforts to shut down meetings called to discuss and protest changes in the UK's Gender Recognition Act to allow self identification. They believe such changes would result in women and girls' being denied what they call "safe spaces" and increase women and girls' susceptibility to harassment and violence. .
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- Bathroom bill - legislation about public toilets in the United States
- Female urination device
- Human right to water and sanitation
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- "Protests planned at Amsterdam urinals over lack of women's toilets" - The Guardian
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