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We won’t stand for Barbican gender-neutral loos, say women

An inconvenient truth: Barbican’s urinals mean even longer queues for ladies?

14 April, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

New “gender neutral” signs have been put up outside toilets at the Barbican

TOILETS at the theatre are a source of frustration for women at the best of times – forcing them to miss parts of the show while waiting in an endless queue while men stroll in and out of the gents.

But now, in the name of equality, the Barbican Centre has managed to cause public outrage over the issue by turning both the gents and the ladies outside Cinema 1 into “gender-neutral” loos.

The sign outside the men’s was changed to “gender neutral with urinals”. The women’s toilets are now marked as “gender neutral with cubicles”.

Critics said it could have been foreseen that, by simply slapping new signs on the same facilities rather than create new ones, the Barbican has actually created even longer lines for women as men can now use the cubicles in what used to be the ladies.

Samira Ahmed. Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The toilet signs were changed last October, but the issue received widespread attention last week after BBC journalist Samira Ahmed took to Twitter to complain.

“Women’s loo labelled ‘gender neutral’ so full of men who also have a urinal to themselves. Totally ridiculous,” she fumed, adding: “Why do women lose our space to men!? All women can use ladies loos. This isn’t the USA.”

She added: “Women have enough trouble with queues without you imposing your politics.

“Or just turn the gents into gender-neutral loos. There’s NEVER such a queue there and you know it.”

Gender-neutral toilets, designed to help transgender and non-binary people – those who have gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine – feel more comfortable, are on the rise.

Lancaster University has them in its library and students’ union nightclub, as has the University of Northampton.

The Barbican admitted the way the loos are currently implemented has “practical limitations” and that it would be seeking further advice. The toilets in other parts of the building are gendered.

When the Tribune went to the Barbican to canvass opinion this week, a women in her 60s, who did not want to be named, said: “I can tell you the ladies toilets are infinitely better. They’re much cleaner and feel safer. Also they can be quite an intimate space where you can have a private chat with a friend or colleague.

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable using the ones with urinals, you’d have to walk in and out of the cubicle and there’s men standing at the urinals, you know. No way.”

A Barbican spokesman said: “The Barbican is committed to providing a supportive, inclusive and flexible space for all our audiences and staff.

“We recognise that the way our gender-neutral toilets are currently implemented have practical limitations, and we will be seeking advice and undertaking further consultation to ensure the facilities we offer are welcoming for all our audience members.

“This will include seeking further practical guidance on implementation from relevant organisations and individuals.

“We will continue to provide gender-specific and gender-neutral toilets, and our audiences remain welcome to use any facilities in line with the gender with which they identify.”

A spokesman for the equality charity Stonewall said: “It’s good to see the Barbican recognise how important gender-neutral facilities are to so many individuals.

“This is a great step and should be applauded. However, it’s important to ensure there are facilities that everyone feels comfortable using.

“Before introducing changes like this, we advise businesses to research the best way to make their space fully inclusive.”

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