Gender neutral bathrooms are also good for other groups of people who are often neglected in the assignment of sanitary facilities. Prevailing social attitudes are probably the biggest barrier to gender inclusive public bathrooms for people who identify as transgender. A guide to gender neutral bathrooms is a great help.
The Creating Bathroom Access & Gender Inclusive Society bathroom guide challenges current ideas. For example, is it really necessary to have male and female toilets? The guide discusses the issues and provides solutions.
Other minority groups face bathroom discrimination. Gender inclusive bathrooms benefit people with disability and older people with carers. Parents with small children also have difficulty finding suitable toilets.
A new approach
Gender-neutral bathrooms have sparked many public debates in the US, however, in Australia, this is still a fairly new concept. We are familiar with unisex accessible sanitary facilities that provide a space that allows carers and users of any gender. Yet, the public services’ push towards gender neutral bathrooms to foster inclusiveness of transgender and intersex employees are causing debate in its Canberra buildings.
The National Construction Code in Australia only recognises the provision of male and female sanitary compartments. Perhaps universal design will provide the solution that architects are looking for:
“Because public bathrooms need to be designated male or female, it forces transgender and nonconforming individuals to choose between the two, sometimes leading them into uncomfortable or unsafe situations. The code leaves architects with a choice, too: take the easy route and design single and multi-occupancy bathrooms labelled “male” or “female,” or design around the code–the latter of which often takes more creativity and resources.”