Lesbian Rights Alliance Submission to the Government Consultation on Toilets (technical review)
The Lesbian Rights Alliance represents lesbian individuals and lesbian groups all over England and Wales. As lesbian women we campaign to defend our sex- based rights to female only facilities alongside other women. We also campaign to defend our rights to same sex sexual orientation and our rights to meet in lesbian only spaces.
There is an urgent need for toilets to be designated single sex, whether these are located in open public spaces, public buildings such as government offices, museums etc, or toilets which are provided in private venues such as bars and pubs. Single sex toilets are needed to protect women and girls’ privacy, dignity and safety. Under the Equality Act 2010 single sex toilets are used as an example where biological males, who identify as transwomen can be legally excluded and where sex-based protections override the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.
The Equality Act (S.22) already recognises this in schools and states that single sex toilet provision must be provided in schools for children aged eight or over.
This principle must be enforced more universally and single sex toilets clearly designated for what they are – toilets for the vast majority of the population – that is for the female or male sex only.
The Current Situation and Women and Girls’ Experience of using Single Sex Toilet Facilities.
As the current situation stands biological males who identify as transwomen, assume they are legally entitled to use female only toilet facilities. It needs to be recognised that the vast majority of these ‘transwomen’ are male cross dressers who have not had surgery to remove their male genitalia and are mostly auto-gynephiles – that is they get sexually aroused by dressing in women’s clothes and in entering female only toilet facilities.
They are often intent on sexually harassing female toilet users as well as indecently exposing their penises. This is illustrated through a brief survey we have done with our members about their experiences of encountering these ‘transwomen’ in female only toilets. For example, one lesbian mother told us that her eight-year-old daughter had been sexually abused by a ‘transwoman,’ flashing his penis at her when she came out of her toilet cubicle, whilst her mother was waiting outside the public female only toilet.
Other lesbian women have told us have that these biological males have tried to grab their breasts or made sexually suggestive remarks to them in public toilets or in female toilets in bars and pubs, or in female toilets in designated women only swimming spaces. These are experiences where women and girls have felt very threatened and their privacy, dignity and safety has been violated.
There are also occasions when these biological males set out to deliberately sexually harass and threaten lesbian only spaces, including in the female only toilets. This frequently occurs at lesbian bar and disco nights. For example, at one bar night in London these ‘transwomen,’ let off stink bombs in the women only toilet. At another Lesbian only bar night, a ‘transwoman,’ who was asked to leave, as it was a women only event, smeared sperm over the toilet paper in a female toilet cubicle.
At another weekly lesbian disco a lesbian told us that a ‘transwoman,’ tried to enter a toilet cubicle as she was coming out and deliberately tried to touch her breast. This woman was made to feel very vulnerable as a result of this incident. At a Lesbian Pride Event in Brighton ‘transwomen,’ invaded the women’s toilets, tried to make physical contact with female users and upturned a sanitary towel container and spread bloodied tampons all over the floor.
Gender Neutral/Mixed Sex Toilet Provision
The current situation has also been made worse for women and girls through replacing single sex toilets with ‘gender neutral’ – that is mixed sex toilets. A number of our group had a horrific experience using the ‘gender neutral’ toilets made available to visitors in the government building where the Department of Education and Government Equality Office are located. In these mixed sex toilets, the toilet seats were covered with male urine and male urine was splashed on the floor, making using these toilets, a very unhygienic, unpleasant experience. Needless to say, single sex toilets were available to the staff working in these government offices.
Mixed sex/gender neutral toilets should not be allowed to replace single sex provision. Male single sex toilets must be equipped with urinals, as well as cubicles. Female only toilets must be adequately equipped so that used sanitary towels and tampons can be effectively disposed of and free sanitary equipment should be provided. There must also be space for mothers with babies and very young children to change nappies.
There must be clear adequate signposting that indicates not only that these toilets are for biological females or biological males only, but it must be clearly stated in a large notice at the entrance to the toilets that it is illegal to use a single sex toilet if you are of the opposite biological sex. The notice should also say that if such a person persists in using the wrong toilet, they can be reported to the police by other users. Toilets in public buildings and parks should be staffed by attendants who should be able to enforce the single sex rules.