University trial of gender-neutral toilets receives ‘transphobic’ backlash from students

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Kingston University Penrhyn Road campus. Photo credit: Google Maps

A trial for gender-neutral toilets at Kingston University has received a flurry of online criticism from students which the university’s LGBTQ+ society has described as transphobic.

The initiative, led by the university’s Student Union officers, the LGBTQ+ society, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team and the Estates team, has seen two single-occupancy toilets in the Penrhyn Road Learning Resources Centre turned into gender-neutral facilities.

Since its implementation, there has been a string of negative comments left by students on the university’s union officer’s Facebook page. One post in particular, dated back in May when the trial began, received over 60 comments, including:

 

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However, amongst the predominantly negative comments there was some positive feedback from students:

 

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Noelle Fourie, media officer for Kingston University’s LGBTQ+ society, said the comments were “transphobic”, “homophobic” and “often times sexist”.

“The Facebook announcement just pulled all the angry people out of the woodwork,” said Fourie. “They were saying things like, ‘if you have a penis you’re a man and if you have a vagina you’re a woman, there’s no other way’.”

Both Fourie and Nate Caruso-Kelly, the president of the LGBTQ+ society who also identifies as transgender, said they were worried the trial shad been extended to allow more students to feed back.

“I think when the university announced that it was going to be a trial, I was sceptical,” said Fourie. “It may just go on forever and we’re just stuck with these two toilets in the library – that is a worry that I have”.

 

A spokesperson for Kingston University and the students’ union told the Kingston Courier: “This trial forms part of the University’s ongoing commitment to providing an inclusive environment for all its students, staff and visitors. Feedback on the pilot – from both staff and students – is currently being collated and will influence whether the trial is later extended to other University campuses.”

Caruso-Kelly said concerns there was little evidence single-sex toilets increased the risk of assault. “There are no reported cases of a transgender person harassing someone in a toilet, but thousands of transgender people are harassed,” they said.

Fourie added: “Even universities that have implemented gender-neutral shared occupancy toilets have not had problems. If people don’t want to use them, then there are plenty of other (gendered) toilets on campus”.

Caruso-Kelly said they hoped that, once the trial does end, the scheme will continue to extend to other campuses across the university. “As long as they keep expanding it across all the other campuses then I think that’s going in the right direction,” they said.

 

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