Toilets were back on the agenda for Manchester students last Monday with the University of Manchester Students’ Union playing host to a debate on its new non-gender facilities.
Approximately 40 students turned up to ‘The Big Debate: Toilets and the Union’, which also gave students a chance to voice their opinions, although none of the panel speakers argued against the new toilets.
A media furor has surrounded the toilets since it surfaced in the national press that one set of toilets in the basement of the Steve Biko building had been de-gendered and traditional ‘male’ and ‘female’ symbols replaced with temporary signs reading ‘toilets’ and ‘toilets with urinals’.
Dissenting voices amongst the student body have criticized the fact that students had not been consulted on the decision. Women’s Officer Jennie Killip spoke with dismay that objections to the toilets have manifested themselves in destructive ways, saying that, “signs have been ripped off these safe places.”
So reassuring, isn’t it, to see that transphobia is alive and well amongst the student population. Really bodes well for the future, doesn’t it, that such depressingly reactionary people – who may well grow up to be our civic and political leaders – are able to carry out such mindless acts of transphobic violence without hindrance.
Challenging such transphobic attitudes was at the top of the agenda on Monday. First speaker Rebecca Dittman from The Gender Trust highlighted the history of transgender people “who have been in society for- forever really” and the problems which they face. “There is still bigotry, there is still hatred, but things are changing.”
You reckon? When your fellow students are reacting with such hostility to what was – let’s face it – little more than a very tentative gesture? Changing in what way, exactly? Are you seriously implying that things are changing for the better? Tolerating hate crimes is going to make things better how, exactly?
Ruth Pearce, trans rep from the NUS Women’s Committee, emphasized that non-gender toilets would not pose a threat to the other toilet users. “We’re not a threat to women – trans people are a bit like spiders. They’re more scared of you than you are of them.”
Oh thanks, Ruth. Thanks very much. I’ve heard of – and experienced – some dehumanising and objectifying bullshit in my time, but that really takes the prize. I can’t believe you said that. And when you use the word “we”, are you saying that you’re trans, too? Either way, with friends like you…
“Trans people are a bit like spiders”. Wouldn’t that be convenient, eh? Those poor cis people with their (apparently justifiable) nervous dispositions could whack us with a rolled-up newspaper, or turn on the taps and flush us down the drain – or if they were feeling really well-disposed to us, they could trap us in an upside-down glass and chuck us out of the window.
Out of sight, out of mind. And wouldn’t everybody’s lives – and we’re talking about real women’s lives, of course – be so much more comfortable without those troublesome trannies around, with all their totally unreasonable and unrealistic demands for equality with other human beings. I mean, why can’t they just know their place, like all the other insects and creepy-crawlies…
…*shakes head in disbelief*…
Misrepresentations of the facts in the media were also criticized, as some reports assumed all Union toilets would become non-gender. “There are and always will remain gender toilets for those who prefer to use them,” assured Natalie Heppenstall from the University of Manchester’s LGBT Society.
Heppenstall was also keen to stress that these were not uniquely “trans toilets” as has been misconstrued in the media, citing the benefits for students with children and disabled students with care-assistants of the opposite sex.
Also, added Pearce, “We’ve now got an extra toilet if there is a queue.”
Apologism taken to new depths. But I suppose it merely continues the whole sorry, misguided fiasco. I’m just thankful that I’m too old and too uneducated to attend university. The groves of academe? You’re welcome to them, if this is your idea of equality for trans people.