The UoM Trans Campaign held an event in conjunction with the Feminist Collective last Monday in celebration of LGBT history month.
The evening was spent discussing intersectional issues that trans students face while studying at university, as well as how cis people can be better allies to trans people.
The University of Manchester is lacking in its efforts towards trans students having a better and safe university experience. Gender neutral toilets were discussed at length. Gender neutral toilets are extremely important to the wellbeing of trans students on campus, as they are a safe space rather than an otherwise very contentious issue for trans people.
Students expressed concern about them being perceived by others as being in the ‘wrong’ bathroom, or that they might not ‘pass’ for whichever gender they identify with. There is a fear of being challenged about your gender or being verbally or physically abused for using the space.
Gender neutral toilets eliminate this problem, as one is not forced to use a toilet labeled with a gender you don’t identify with and equally there is no threat of being challenged about being in the space.
According to resources provided by the university, there are 36 gender neutral toilets between both main and north campus. However, there are 127 university buildings listed on the campus map, meaning that access to gender neutral toilets is still fairly limited.
One student pointed out that all of the toilets in the Joules Library are traditionally gendered, despite them being single cubicle toilets with no common sink area. There is no point to them being assigned to one gender or the other, and it further reduces the access trans students have to safe bathroom facilities.
Another student explained that removing radar locks from disabled toilets can help trans people have access to safe bathroom facilities in the short term. However these bathrooms must also be accessible to the disabled people who need them, and there is always a feeling of guilt when using them.
Gender neutral bathrooms need to be normalised within the university’s infrastructure so that all trans students have safe access to facilities where they will not have fear of being harassed.
This is not the first time the UoM Trans Campaign have fought this issue. In August of 2019 they released a statement pressuring the university to increase their dedication to building gender neutral toilets, and ensuring the language was clear that the space could be used by anyone. This was in reaction to the university’s plan to sign post them as “universal toilets”, which was not suitably clear that all genders could use them, and may imply they were also suitable for disabled users.
As UoM commission more and more new buildings, UoM Trans Campaign will be lobbying to ensure that all buildings are accessible to trans students.