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Transgender survey on single-sex toilets comes under attack

Gender identity consultation is criticised for being ‘oddly discreet’ and asking 'vague questions'

17 August, 2018 — By Helen Chapman

The Barbican introduced gender neutral toilets last year

BARBICAN bosses have asked the public for their views on “gender identity” as part of a review of single-sex toilets, following the debate surrounding transgender issues.

The arts centre – owned, funded and managed by the City of London Corporation – introduced gender neutral toilets last year, alongside separate male and female toilets.

The consultation launched by the City of London Corporation looks at how facilities should be run and asks participants for their views on the use of, for example, single-sex toilets by transmen and transwomen – who identify as a different gender to the one assigned them at birth.

Any policies that result from the consultation are expected to be implemented at the Museum of London and toilets and changing rooms at City of London schools and offices.

But it was criticised by Professor Alice Sullivan, who researches gender differences and social inequalities in education and employment at University College London, on the grounds that it was unclear and was handled in an “oddly discreet way”.

Professor Sullivan said: “As a survey researcher, I know a good survey asks specific questions in clear English. This consult­ation does not do that. It asks vague questions, which many people won’t understand.

“The topic is controversial, and it is important that people are properly consulted.”

Posters advertising an alternative consultation, set up by Man Friday – a divisive feminist group that describes itself as “anti-self-identification” of gender – were plastered over the Barbican this week.

Professor Sullivan, who chairs a running club that uses the City’s Parliament Hill athletics track, said “They only informed the Parliament Hill running track users group about the consultation after I prompted them to do so, yet it affects the track changing rooms.”

She added: “The whole framing of the consultat­ion is that gender is purely about identity. As a sociologist, I think that biological differences and social structures are important, and the survey should not assume that they don’t exist or matter.”

Highbury East councillor Osh Gantly, who is also LGBTQI officer for campaign group Momentum in Islington, said: “As I understand it, what they [the City of London Corporation] are trying to do is be as inclusive possible. I welcome what they are doing. Trans­women are, in law, allowed to use the bathrooms they identify with. I don’t see why people would have a problem with that.”

Cllr Gantly, Labour’s first elected transgender councillor, added: “I personally haven’t had issues with this. It is no one’s business where I go to the loo and I’m not going to have a discus­sion about that with people – I’m only in there to have a pee.

“I wouldn’t say there is an urgent need for Islington Council to address this [in the same way]. I haven’t had any issues with this myself.”

Bob Starrett, a pensioner who lives at the Barbican estate, said: “There are a million issues that have to be raised with that question. It’s a debate that is probably broader than you can imagine.

“No one here [at the Barbican] would raise an eyebrow on gender – I certainly wouldn’t. My view is to live and let live. I’m fully in support of anything progressive.”

A spokesperson for the City of London Corpor­ation said: “Our vision is to build and support strong, sustainable and cohesive communities by ensuring all our policies are fully inclusive.”

The consultation survey is available at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/LLK223F and at www.cityoflondon.gov.uk It closes on September 14.

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