FFLAG considers the UK Government’s proposal to require gender-specific toilets for men and women in building standards guidance to be wrong and illogical. This is the text of our response to the consultation:
Toilet provision for men and women
FFLAG is the UK’s charity for families with LGBT+ children (of all ages) and their friends. On this occasion, however, we write with concern for all our children regardless of their sexuality, gender identity or gender expression.
The government’s stated position is that “there needs to be proper provision of gender-specific toilets for both men and women, with a clear steer in building standards guidance”. We do not comprehend the logic of the government’s conclusion for the following reasons.
We agree that toilets, both in municipal and private sector locations, are an important facility for members of the public. As a parent-led charity, we are concerned that the sole reference to children in the consultation document describes the need for changing facilities, which we take to mean baby-changing facilities, yet this need is completely consistent with, and can be better met, within gender-neutral toilets.
We invite you to consider how gender-neutral toilets solve the problem that a parent with a child of the opposite sex has in accompanying that child into single-sex toilets. It is safer and more appropriate for a mother to accompany her young son into a gender-neutral toilet facility than for her to take him into a female-only facility. The same is just as true for a father with a young daughter, or for a parent of two children of different sexes. This is a very common difficulty to which no weight seems to have been given in the consultation.
The consultation states that gender-neutral toilets place women at a significant disadvantage because “men can … use both cubicles and urinals, [whereas] women can only use the former”. This flies in the face of our experience of existing gender-specific facilities, where queues regularly form outside the female toilets at busy times. Furthermore, if the building regulations were amended to mandate gender-neutral toilets, combining the hand-washing areas in gender-specific toilets into a single shared handwashing space in a gender-neutral toilet facility would release space to provide more cubicles. A separate area within a gender-neutral toilet facility providing urinals could be offered, if desired, to speed throughput of male users, thus keeping the cubicles free. The combined traffic through the shared space in gender-neutral toilets has the added advantage of increasing security for all users and makes using the facilities much easier for families. You can see how successfully this works in swimming pools and leisure centres, where the trend has moved to provision of mixed changing areas which are entirely cubicles.
The consultation states that “signage should be clear and should not seek to avoid the use of gender-specific language unnecessarily as this causes public confusion”. We invite you to consider the simple fact that all confusion can be avoided by using signage that simply states “Toilets”. It is only when you impose a requirement for gender-specific toilets that signage becomes problematical.
We are pleased that the government appears well-disposed towards gender-neutral Changing Places toilets for disabled people, to facilitate carers/partners of a different sex providing assistance. As noted above, the same consideration should apply in regard to assistance and oversight of minor children.
Gender-neutral toilets are currently the norm on aeroplanes, trains and coaches and are commonplace in many other countries. If the government believes it necessary to mandate gender-specific toilets in the building regulations, surely aircraft, train and coach builders would need to be required to follow suit? This would be an extraordinary outcome and very difficult to achieve, practically and financially.
Requiring the provision of gender specific toilets will also mean that separate unisex toilets will be required for non binary people. This will place an additional burden of costs and practical difficulty on public buildings, which will have to find space to provide male, female, gender neutral, Changing Places and accessible toilets. We know how difficult it is for our trans and non binary children who are frequently challenged when they simply wish to use a public toilet[i]. The insistence on separating and policing toilet use on the basis of two sexes creates problems for parents, children and for anybody whose physical appearance is judged not to meet stereotypical norms. This is an unnecessary stress for people who simply want to use a toilet.
We conclude that this consultation is based upon a flawed understanding of the merits of gender-neutral toilet provision and we call upon the government to reassess its stated position.
[i] Here’s just one example of an incident which happened recently to a 14-year-old from one of our support groups. This young person was challenged coming out of the toilets in a major supermarket. They were assigned female at birth and present in a neutral kind of way. They had been buoyed up that day because they’d been to the hairdresser and, without asking, had been given a ‘male’ style of cut, with sideburns. Although they identify as non binary, they were thrilled that the hairdresser hadn’t read them as a girl. But having gone into the supermarket, they needed the toilet and, after worrying about it, decided they had better use the ladies’ toilet because they didn’t want to be challenged and they knew that people who object to trans people using the ‘wrong’ toilet argue that you should use the toilet matching your birth certificate. So they used the female toilet – and when they exited found that two women had called the security guard who challenged them when they came out, which was very distressing, and totally unnecessary. Insisting on male and female toilets makes it impossible for these young people to make the right choice, yet there is a very simple solution which can benefit all families.
FFLAG is disappointed and deeply concerned by the Judgment handed down on 1 December in the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) Judicial Review. We know that this is causing immense anxiety and distress to trans children and their families. This judgment places a barrier on essential healthcare to trans children, which our other children do not face.
GIDS is a specialist service which offers a safe and supportive environment to families with children exploring their gender identity. We trust the expert clinicians and know that discussion and psychological support are the main elements of treatment. These important decisions for our children’s safety and wellbeing are not rushed; the approach is cautious and considered and only a minority of those referred access puberty blockers. The waiting lists for a first appointment are currently around two years. Further delays and obstacles to treatment will harm our children.
We welcome the Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust’s stated intention to appeal this ruling. We will not stand by whilst those who most need care and support are discriminated against and we continue to offer support to families with a trans member.
FFLAG launches support booklet for friends and families of people diagnosed with HIV
FFLAG is proud to launch the latest booklet in our support series. It has been written by parents whose children have been diagnosed with HIV and they have heartening news to share. When someone living with HIV is on effective treatment, they can have a normal life expectancy and do not risk passing on the virus to a partner or anybody else.
There are many resources for people living with HIV. This booklet is a resource for anybody dealing with their emotional reactions on learning that a friend or relative has received this diagnosis. We particularly hope anyone who has been diagnosed with HIV will give this booklet to their friends and family to help them understand their condition and reassure them that they can lead an ordinary life.
The booklet can be downloaded from FFLAG’s website or a copy will be posted on request to anyone in the UK who would prefer the printed version.
FFLAG is the UK’s charity for friends and families of LGBT+ people. As parents of our greatly loved LGBT+ young people, we are deeply troubled by the actions of the BBC in removing transgender (‘trans’) support charities for England, Wales and Scotland from the BBC Action Line.
We stand together with those organisations who, like us, are providing support and wellbeing to countless families. We are all working together to bring about a world where all people, irrespective of gender identity or sexuality, are valued and respected equally.
This year, FFLAG is celebrating its 25thbirthday with a Conference and Celebration Dinner in Manchester over the weekend of 10thand 11thNovember. The Conference, “Reaching for the Rainbow: 25 years strong”, will celebrate 25 years of families supporting and campaigning for their LGBT+ loved ones. It will also plan the work of FFLAG going forward and discuss how to build up the work of local parents’ and family groups.
The Conference is possible thanks to funding from The Big Lottery Fund.
The Conference is aimed at parents and others with an LGBT+ family member, and organisations with an interest in the support of families with LGBT+ members. We will discuss topics such as “helping parents with strong religious beliefs”, “what to say to your transgender child” and “how to set up a local group to support parents of LGBT+ children”. Speakers are coming from a range of organisations with expertise in these areas.
For further information contact email@example.com
On Thursday, FFLAG trustees attended the Metropolitan Police Service Hate Crime Roadshow for all their staff, in particular, their hate crime investigators, safer schools officers, neighbourhood Policing teams and safer transport teams. The day was about officers and staff being aware of what help there is for victims of hate crime and their families.
Bruce and Janet Kent were invited to represent FFLAG on the day to provide information and resources about the work that we do and to learn how we can better work alongside them.
Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer, Head of Community Engagement for the MET said, “FFLAG is a wonderful support for families and really important support to help when young people are going through such an important time in their lives.”
A valuable new booklet LGBT and Caring has recently been published by Carers Wales. It was produced with help from Pride Cymru.
Caring can be and isolating experience and being a carer from the LGBTQ+ community can add additional challenges. Some people feel the support services are ‘not for them’ and won’t understand their needs. Some people may access support late or not at all because they anticipate stigma or discrimination. This adds to the impact on the carer’s life, and can increase feelings of isolation.
This booklet explores the experiences of LGBTQ+ carers and outlines what support is available. There is information on various topics such as getting support from the local council to different ways of managing someone’s affairs. The booklet is available in both English and Welsh.
For a copy of the booklet please contact Carers Wales www.carerswales.org
Families and friends met for a wonderful evening at the House of Lords in June. A reception and dinner was held to celebrate the passing of equalities legislation and the work of FFLAG over the years. The evening was kindly hosted by Lord Norton of Louth and attended by over 100 guests. FFLAG patrons Lord Cashman of Limehouse and Peter Tatchell joined us and spoke about FFLAG’s contribution to the LGBT community. Lord Norton enlighted us on much of the equalities legislation and the work that has gone on over the years to ensure LGBT rights.
It was lovely to see FFLAG parents from Scotland, Wales, the Midlands and the West Country join with friends and families and share stories of FFLAG’s work and that of the parents support groups. There were also many guests supporting FFLAG for the first time. It was good to be able to talk about our work and to have such encouraging feedback.
We would like to thank Lord Norton most sincerely for hosting such a memorable evening and to thank Ken Batty for his amazing organisational skill and making it all happen.
FFLAG has been chosen to be HerbertSmithFreehills IRIS Network charity Partner of the year. Trustees Bruce and Janet Kent recently attended the launch party and met with Adam McCann, Senior Diversity and Inclusion Executive who said
‘The Herbert Smith Freehills IRIS (Inclusion Respecting Identity and Sexuality) Network is delighted to partner with FFLAG as our charity partner of the year. I believe FFLAG’s work is incredibly important for all families to flourish, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. At our firm we celebrate the differences of our colleagues and uphold a culture of inclusion which aligns with the work FFLAG does to celebrate and support diverse families.’
We are so pleased to have the opportunity of partnering with the IRIS Network and raising FFLAG’s profile. The more people are aware of FFLAG, the more we will be able to reach out and help all those looking for the unique support we offer.
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