FREEDOM OF CHOICE IN THE PUBLIC TOILET

Hobart is considering installing permanent signs in all public lavatories endorsing the right of transgender people to use men’s or women’s toilets.  Temporary signs have already been backed by the Hobart City Council, but their implementation has stalled amid attempts to “deplatform” a women’s group from the consultation process.  Advocates are pushing ahead with a more ambitious plan for permanent signs in all 102 toilets in the city, despite council officers recommending against it and finding it would cost $2550.  Transgender advocates hail the moves as an attempt to change attitudes and improve safety for the “gender diverse”.

However, some women’s rights campaigners warn it could undermine the safety of women and girls and end their right to ­female-only conveniences.  Non-binary councillor Holly Ewin said she still hoped to achieve permanent signage, with temporary rotating posters as an interim measure.  “This is about positive reinforcement and breaking down stigmas around trans bodies,” Ewin said.  “Trans people are among the highest percentage of people who are most likely to get assaulted, particularly in bathrooms.  “A lot of friends and family, and myself, have been assaulted in public spaces and public bathrooms.”

The council has been divided over which groups to consult on the design of the signs, with trans groups opposing the inclusion of feminist group Women Speak Tasmania.  Ewin has circulated a suggested sign, which urges anyone who thinks “the wrong person is using this bathroom” to “respect their privacy”, “respect their identity”, and “carry on with your day”, but to call security “if you feel unsafe”.  Women Speak Tasmania spokeswoman Bronwyn Williams said the group was concerned that women and girls could be confronted in toilets by biological males.  “We are in no way saying that all transgender women are sexual predators,” Miss Williams said.

“What we are saying is that women have no way of knowing if a man is a sexual predator or not.  If I had daughters, I wouldn’t be letting them go in by themselves if this sort of policy was in place and there is a sign saying ‘if you see a man, just accept that he’s a woman and respect his identity’.”  Ewin’s partner, Hera Direen, who describes herself as “transfem, non-binary”, said such concerns were misplaced and made offensive assumptions. “Trans people are suffering abuse no matter which bathroom they are going into,” she said. “There is this idea that we are going to assault someone. If we are in the ‘wrong’ bathroom, we get abused.

“When we go into the bathroom that aligns to our sexual organs, rather than to our gender, there are usually people in those bathrooms that are abusers. “People have been attacked or raped in the bathroom that they are ‘supposed’ to be using.” Parks and Recreation committee chair Jeff Briscoe said he did not want to see the council “caught in a battle” over the issue. He personally favoured continuing to provide separate male and female toilets, while mandating that all new facilities include unisex options. It was hoped the committee, and then the full council, would make a final decision soon, he said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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