Transgender people need to be treated with dignity and respect at work. But our rights should not be allowed to ride roughshod over the rights of others. Yet it’s an unfortunate reality that, in the quest for inclusion, some workplace policies do just that – even in the heart of Whitehall.
The Cabinet Office’s ‘Toolkit‘ to support transitioning at work is astonishingly forthright when it addresses the issue of staff toilets:
‘It is assumed that the transitioning employee knows which facilities are the best match for their gender identity. Therefore, the employee should use the facilities closest aligned to their affirmed gender from their first day presenting in it.’Cabinet Office Toolkit: Supporting Transitioning at Work
Everyone else, it seems, is expected to like it, lump it, or go somewhere else. If other employees object, managers are told to explain that using the correct facilities forms an important part of gender transition:
‘If other employees are uncomfortable with this, they should consider using any available alternative facilities.’Cabinet Office Toolkit: Supporting Transitioning at Work
If the objections are raised ‘in an appropriate manner’, that is. Otherwise the book may get thrown at them:
‘If objections are raised inappropriately, you may need to consider action under the bullying, harassment and discrimination policy.’Cabinet Office Toolkit: Supporting Transitioning at Work
To be fair on the Cabinet Office, statements like these are commonplace in workplace documents. Those reading and harrumphing might want to contact their own HR department and ask for a copy of their office policy. It may be an eye-opener. The language may differ but the message is often much the same. Wiltshire council, for example, states that:
‘Transgender employees are entitled to use the toilets and changing facilities in accordance with the full time gender which they present in their new gender role. If other employees object to this, managers should consider steps to raise general awareness and/or ask the employees who object to use alternative facilities.’Wiltshire Council
On campus, the story is much the same. Imperial College London is at pains to make it clear that transition is a social process:
‘As soon as a staff member is living in the gender with which they identify, even if they have not undergone or do not intend to undergo medical or surgical procedures, they are entitled to have access to the facilities of their gender. This includes toilets and changing rooms.’Imperial College London
Yet ultimately these policies – which are a nightmare for managers and HR departments to deal with – don’t help anyone, least of all trans people. They also do little to help employees who want to support a colleague who is transitioning, but do not feeling comfortable about sharing sex-segregated spaces with them.
I transitioned at work ten years ago. In those days, policy development was in its infancy. Stonewall had yet to launch its Vision for Change and announce that it was ‘extending its remit to campaign for trans equality.’ Transgender issues were rarely discussed in the news; advice was much harder to find. Talking to other people transitioning at the time, it seemed that while some employers were genuinely supportive of their transgender staff, others were not. There was a sense of muddling through. We do not want to go back there; we all need good policy. But the naïve and thoughtless references to toilets and changing rooms helps nobody.
We segregate by sex for good reasons. Safety is one of them; dignity and respect is also vital. This has been forgotten or perhaps ignored by too many people. We must not ask women to budge up and make room for male people who are transitioning. It’s not fair, and it is not right. Workplaces should provide additional safe-and-secure individual facilities for anyone who does not wish to share communal arrangements with their own sex.
It’s a big ask to provide them for everyone who might want them, of course, so this is a situation where trans people should be treated more favourably and given priority. But one thing is vital: women should not lose out. Because when everyone can feel secure, tensions can dissipate, and we can all get on with our lives in peace.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 6 February 2022: The Cabinet Office’s transgender toilet muddle.
2 replies on “The Cabinet Office’s transgender toilet muddle”
The unfairness of expecting women to accommodate trans women in their rest rooms is compounded by the fact that women’s rest rooms are often smaller than men’s; and even when they are the same size, that doesn’t take into account that women must always sit, and so their visits take longer, not to mention that more of them probably wash their hands than men do.
Keep single sex facilities. Provide unisex which are also disabled single contained for anyone. Sorted easy.
Single sex facilities are a basic human right protected by law. Removing them is religious prejudice, sexual prejudice. The 2010 equality law states single sex facilities (toilets, changing rooms, prisons, shelters etc) must be provided for safety, decency, dignity, practical reasons etc.
Stonewall have clouded the law by replacing “sex” with “gender” which directly excludes minorities such as Jews.
I hope Jews Christians Muslims increasingly sue these places rather than self exclude as is happening now.
The 1 in 3 women who have been sexually assaulted are also excluded from unisex facilities. Only they understand the fear of putting themselves in the dangerous situation where they could be alone with a male, compound the danger if need to remove clothes in flimsy door cubicle or in swimming pool changing rooms, best get is a shower curtain. Thousands of women are sexually assaulted in unisex facilities each year.
For commercial places, the go woke go broke works. But if its a persons place of work, i really feel for them… what females are doing is endangering their health (esp kidney function) by not drinking all day to avoid using unisex toilets.
But these facilities are illegal, when people take them to court, they magically change them back or lose.
Many men have self identified as women to access these facilities and raped women and young girls. Im shocked at the horrific stories I’ve read around the world. They’ve already gone too far. If this continues and is more widespread, people will rise up against these prejudicial policies, more companies, governments will be sued. Thats a good thing. Maybe it’ll stop these faschist Orwellian policies but lets hope they blame the companies, stonewall and predatory men, not transpeople who are generally happy to use the unisex disabled facilities.
Useful stats on link if im allowed to share this, includes fact UK 2017-8. Half of sports facilities changing rooms are unisex, yet 90% of all sexual assaults occur in them. Note facilities nowadays have family rooms so mums with sons, trans etc arent excluded.