The Real Issue Raised By Transgender Use Of Public Toilets

My first thought upon hearing that the US government and the North Carolina governor were suing and counter-suing over that state’s ban on transgender use of gender appropriate public toilets was not that I was instinctively on the side of the trans community, which I am, but to wish good luck to them in their search for any public toilets in America.

The truth about the U.S. is that it is a public toilet-averse country. There are just so few places in America, especially in the cities, where a citizen can relieve him or herself without the use of subterfuge or guile (the exceptions being the highways, at least if you can hold it in for 100 miles or so (!), and parks).

A public toilet in Dusseldorf, Germany

A public toilet in Dusseldorf, Germany

I remember on one of my very first trips to Manhattan as a 19-year old student looking for a summer job and traipsing the steamy streets not so much in search of employment but for a place to pee.

There were no public toilets at all and so I was forced to seek relief in bars where, with the barman watching your every move, it was advisable to pay for your pee by buying a glass of Coke, which sort of defeated the purpose of the exercise since hardly had I relieved myself,  downed the Coke and resumed my quest for work than the urge grew again.

In Ireland, and in Britain, nearly every town and even some villages have a public toilet, ‘Men’ on one side, ‘Women’ on the other, usually right smack in the centre of town so everyone, especially travelers knows where to look.

Britain and much of Ireland went through a phase in the latter part of the 19th century and early years of the twentieth which we now refer to as municipal socialism when local councils set out to provide facilities and services designed to make working class life more bearable.

The provision of clean and hygienic public toilets was considered one of the more important of these resources. They also played a crucial part in the control of disease.

America seems to have missed out of this phase in human civilization, and more’s the pity.

I wish the trans community the best of luck in their legal tussle with the prehistoric government of North Carolina but they would be doing all of America a favour if, in the process, they drew attention to the public toilet gap that separates the US from a large slice of the rest of humanity.

 

2 responses to “The Real Issue Raised By Transgender Use Of Public Toilets

  1. On the subject of UK lavatories we should also mention the laudable ‘radar’ key, a universal key that grants access to over 9,000 public toilets at any time of the day or night. Setup to ensure that disabled people enjoy access to these facilities around the clock, the key is now available to anyone willing to register and pay the modest fee involved
    If you would like one for Christmas, Ed, let me know!

  2. Ed
    You paint a straw coloured picture of having a wee in the UK, but things have changed a lot since we were wee boys. Its true every town or even council estates used to have a public toilet, but not any more, in cities like London many have been turned into posh restaurants or simply been knocked down. In neoliberal Britain you pay to have a piss whether in a privatised street toilet,(which are few and far between) on railway stations or when using a toilet in pub, restaurant or bookies etc, i e price of snack, bet, or beer.

    Civilized societies are not what neo liberalism produces. Is it any wonder the UK today resembles one giant privatised piss pot, what else could it be when Cameron, Blair and co have been taking the piss out of the citizenry for the last three decades?

    PS the reason places like Hampstead Heath have become so popular after dark in the last decades is because the cottages have all gone;)

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