Access to a toilet is a simple human right

The NZ Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Education and the Department of Labour state that all individuals should be able to use the facilities that match their gender identity, OUSA queer support co-ordinator Hahna Briggs writes.

"Stranger danger'' and the "bathroom predator'' as alluded to by Glenn Hardesty (ODT, 23.5.16) are myths. These myths continually distract us from the real issue in our society.

As our country's devastating statistics on family and intimate partner violence demonstrate, we are much more likely to experience violence and harm from people we know really well and trust. Gender-neutral toilets are no more dangerous than gender-segregated toilets.

In fact, gender-neutral toilets are much safer for many of our community members.

Gender-segregated toilets are intended to provide safety, modesty, and security in these facilities. But using the toilet can be a daily issue for transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Some people experience harassment, denial of use and even assault when using public restrooms because of society's binary gender norms. This can lead to health problems caused by avoiding using public restrooms, such as kidney and urinary tract infections.

In addition, these experiences can have a huge impact on an individual's ability to participate in education, employment, health and public life.

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Education and the Department of Labour state that all individuals should be able to use the facilities that match their gender identity.

For some people this will mean access to gender-segregated toilets and for others, access to a gender-neutral facility is best. This is probably the one point of Mr Hardesty's I agree with. Having both gender-segregated and gender-neutral toilets available on campus is appropriate.

This is the reason why we relabelled the toilets at OUSA Clubs and Societies gender-neutral, because there just are not very many gender-neutral toilets on campus.

And there is good support for the availability of gender-neutral toilets at the University of Otago. In 2014, 1234 people participated in a survey investigating the experiences and views of students of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities at the University of Otago.

All of the participants with non-binary gender identities, nearly 80% of LGBTAQ* participants and nearly 65% of HAABG* participants said they would be comfortable using gender-neutral toilets.

If people such as Mr Hardesty do not want to use the ground floor gender-neutral toilets at OUSA Clubs and Societies, they can still go to the gender-segregated toilets on the first floor or the second floor or the literally hundreds of gender-segregated toilets across the entire campus.

At the end of the day it does not matter what percentage of students are non-binary or gender non-conforming, having access to a toilet is a human right, and we should all be able to pee in peace.

•The 2014 Campus Climate survey used the abbreviation LGBTAQ to refer to our sample of participants who identified as lesbian/gay/takatapui, bisexual/pansexual, trans, asexual, questioning, and or queer. We refer to participants who identified as heterosexual and binary gender by the abbreviation HAAGB.

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter