“Toilet signs ‘too PC'”

September 30, 2008

The restroom panic about Tanya White was reprehensible, and we know the appalling treatment of Roz at London Pride was equally unnecessary – and the subtext of this latest panic attack (via The Manchester Evening News) makes me question, once again, non- trans people’s groundless and faintly absurd fixation that they are going to be assaulted by massed throngs of trans people if they don’t keep us out of public toilets.

toilets with urinalsToilet signs ‘too PC’

STUDENTS say new signs on toilets at their union building might be making their WC just a ‘bit too PC’.

The traditional sign on the door of the Gents has been temporarily replaced with one that says ‘toilets with urinals’.

And the sign on the Ladies now simply says ‘toilets’ in a move to make the lavatories more inclusive for trans-gender students.

The signs on the toilets in the basement of Manchester University students’ union were changed after a meeting of the union’s executive in the summer.


toiletsJennie Killip, women’s officer at the students’ union, put forward the idea of installing the new signs after receiving complaints from trans-gender students about the facilities.

She said: “The idea is that trans-gender people feel more comfortable using their student union.”

“Trans-gender people can face violence and abuse when they go into toilets and we wanted to provide a place where they can feel comfortable.”

“I have had complaints from people who said we didn’t have any facilities for them.”



Minutes from the union’s executive meeting in July said: “The women’s officer asked if any action could be taken following the directive from the council to look into gender-neutral toilets in the union.”

“After discussion, the women’s officer felt the solution would be to change the signs on one set of toilets in the building to `with urinals’ and `without urinals’ with explanatory signage.”

“She felt the basement would be the most appropriate area to trial this. This was agreed.”


And leading the charge of the gender-specific brigade:

Second-year literature and linguistics student Jane McConnell, 19, is a news editor on the Student Direct student newspaper.

She said: “While these signs might be appropriate for people with different sexualities in the community of the University of Manchester, I also think that many people from different religious and ethnic groups are going to feel uncomfortable using these facilities.

“I think they might believe the university union aren’t reflecting their beliefs and choices and that they are going to feel very uncomfortable using these toilets.

…But it’s perfectly acceptable for trans people to feel uncomfortable, is that what you’re saying?

And your comments about people from different religious and ethnic groups are a red herring in this context as the report clearly states that the signs have only been changed “on one set of toilets in the building“.

Note also that these toilets are in the basement, so we don’t know what access there is for disabled people, be they trans or other.

But the last part of Ms McConnell’s quote is really very special:

“Even though they’re just two signs, at the end of the day, toilets should be for women and for men specifically, not for both.”

Because as everybody knows, there is only the gender binary. Male, female. Man, woman.


And the 1 in 4000 who are gender dysphoric (or is it 1 in 1400?) – well, we just don’t count, apparently.

And you a journalist an’ all; maybe you need to work on your researching skills a little more before launching into thoughtless op-ed pieces like that?

And is this anonymous person (below) actually not a student but in fact a retired colonel from suburbia?

Another student, who did not want to be named, said: “This is ridiculous.”

“It is just too much political correctness.”

“I can not believe they are changing the signs – everybody knows the traditional male and female toilet signs.”

“It could lead to some confusion.”

Too much political correctness“? I wonder what the recognised maximum limit actually is. Y’see, Nonny, actually it’s attitudes like yours which continue to drive the need for political correctness, as you call it. Tell me –

– What’s too politically correct about providing public toilets which don’t add to trans people’s existing concerns about their gender identities?

– What’s too politically correct about providing public toilets where trans people don’t feel they’re going to be humiliated, verbally abused and possibly even physically attacked by non- trans members of the public?

What is your problem exactly, hey Nonny?


ETA, 28 October 2008: Updated – see Trans people are a bit like spiders


9 Responses to ““Toilet signs ‘too PC'””

  1. Lisa Harney Says:

    This is always a good link when mocking people who whinge about political correctness.

  2. Helen G Says:

    Simply put, the great “PC” cliché, as commonly deployed in mainstream discourse, is cultural propaganda designed to befuddle and misdirect while defending the current power structure.


    Great post – thanks for the link!

  3. queenemily Says:

    I love how a move towards letting a group of people take a pee without fear of being arrested or harassed for being in the “wrong” toilet–which doesn’t exclude ANYONE ELSE from the same protections–is PC madness blah blah, and basically suggested to be somehow discriminatory.

    Good on Manchester Uni, though. I managed to get a gender-neutral toilet at my campus, but it was in the middle of nowhere. Ah well.

  4. Sami Says:

    (Here via another blog.)

    I really don’t get this. I’m not trans, but I don’t see where the problem is supposed to come from here. It’s not like they’re trans-only or anything.

    Disabled toilets tend to be gender-neutral. Are these idiots uncomfortable going into those, too?

  5. […] seem to do after I get home from work).  I’ve stumbled over some very very nice stuff via an article I found from Feministing that caught my eye.  It’s about trans-inclusive bathrooms at a university, and why they’re “too […]

  6. Steph Says:

    Thank you for this. I’m a graduate of this university and the “oh noes, we cis-gendered people are slightly out of our comfort zome” attitude has been making me really irritated. The union building has toilets on every single floor, so if people feel unhappy about using the re-labelled facilities they can use the ones on the other three floors. Or any of the other several hundred toilets spread around campus.

  7. Emily Nevels Says:

    The quality arguments from opponents are pretty strong here. I mean, “It is just too much political correctness,” -how can you argue with that? Ignore the fact that this argument has no substance whatsoever. Ignore the tangible threats of harassment and abuse- at the very least extreme discomfort- that transsexuals feel every time they use a public bathroom. Ignore the fact that these are people with the human right to do their business in peace.

    I am disgusted that their fellow students would not have the decency to support the re-labeling of one bathroom. Obviously these people feel the foundation of their understood gender binary shaking, and are reacting with fear of the unknown. This article made me reflect on the unearned privilege I have as a gender-unquestioning individual. I have always taken for granted the fact that I feel comfortable in a public restroom. If this ridiculously basic need cannot be met, I am disappointed in the state of human awareness and connectivity. I urge those who disagree with the re-labeling to do a little research on the commonality of transgender individuals. Have a little empathy and realize the guts it takes to be true to oneself and survive in our society without subscribing to the “typical” male and female categories.

  8. thanks for this. being cis-gendered is one of the privileges i constantly have to check on myself. this seems like such a simple solution to a wide-spread issue that i just find it astounding how many people get worked up about it. do you think they ever stop to realize that their home toilets are unisex? i know it’s not quite the same, but they wouldn’t ask a visiting acquaintance to use the basement toilet and reserve the upstairs for their close friends only. why does it matter who pees in the stall next to you?

  9. […] don’t know if I can really add anything more to my post of last September (“Toilet signs ‘too PC’”), which was about the introduction of gender neutral toilets in the basement of Manchester […]

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