The Union of UEA Students has passed policy to introduce gender neutral toilets in Union House in order to accommodate for those who do not identify within the male-female gender binary.
Photo: Chris Teale
The vote, which responds in part to findings of the Union’s recent LGBT+ survey, was approved by Union Council with 55 votes in favour and just 16 against (plus one abstention).
Although the budget is yet to be confirmed, the plans for Union House have already been drafted. Firstly, the womens’ toilets on floor one near the advice centre will be converted into a campaigns store room, with the large mens’ facilities becoming gender neutral. This means that there will be cubicles much like in standard womens’ toilets, but available to everyone.
Depending on funding the next stage will be the facilities in the Hive, which the Union plans to merge into one large gender-neutral space, removing the urinals from the mens’. The LCR toilets will remain segregated, so that students will have the option to use male, female or gender-neutral facilities across the Hive/LCR area.
The final stage will include the toilets in the Blue and Red bars. However, as these are the most recently renovated, they are currently the lowest priority.
Speaking to Concrete, LGBT+ officer Richard Laverick said: “It’s hoped that the new toilets will simply reaffirm our support of people who don’t define as male or female, or for those who are trans*. We don’t believe people have to fit into certain boxes, but encourage people to be who they are.
“Gender neutral toilets have been successful in other unions such as Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield. They are shown to reduce bullying in certain areas too … But most importantly it’s about extending safe spaces to everyone regardless of gender. Once you’re in a cubicle, what does it matter who’s in the cubicle next door?”
“It will be new at first, but people have and will adjust very easily. I am extremely pleased Council passed it with such a majority and such support, and I think it sends a strong message to everyone that regardless of your gender you are welcome at the Union of UEA Students.”
The Union are also planning to lobby UEA to introduce the policy in other buildings across the University, such as the smaller facilities in the library. Laverick commented: “Why do they need to be male/female? It would be easier for everyone if they were just gender neutral, it saves people walking up and down stairs!”
Jon Gleek, Welfare officer at Sheffield SU, told Concrete that their facilities have been a huge success since their introduction last year.
“Trans* and non-binary students have found them useful. There are male, female and gender-neutral options, so there’s lots of choice, and they’re all as popular as each other. The LGBT committee recently ran a survey and had really positive results from students. And they’re also good on nights out, as people don’t have to break up friendship groups. It’s just been generally beneficial for everyone.”
As yet, no date for work on the new facilities has been confirmed.