Barbican to review its gender-neutral toilets after furious row breaks out

Patrick Grafton-Green
'Totally ridiculous': The Barbican has scrapped men's and women's toilets in favour of gender neutral loos: Lee Mawdsley

The Barbican Centre will carry out a review after a furious row was sparked by its decision to scrap some male and female toilets in favour of "gender neutral" loos.

Signs outside the London art centre’s cinema screen have been changed to say "gender-neutral with cubicles" and "gender-neutral with urinals".

But the new facilities were slammed as "totally ridiculous" by broadcaster Samira Ahmed on Tuesday, who told the Barbican "women have enough trouble with queues without imposing your politics".

The 48-year-old, who works on BBC Radio 4's Front Row, tweeted: “Dear Barbican, women's loos labelled "gender neutral" so full of men who ALSO have a 'urinal' to themselves. Totally ridiculous.

“Why do women lose our space to men!? All women can use ladies loos. This isn't the USA.

“I have asked some @BarbicanCentre staff who say they pointed out that turning ladies into gender neutral loos was going to be a mistake.”

The Barbican Centre admitted on Thursday there were "practical limitations" in the way the toilets had been implemented, and added it would be "seeking advice and undertaking further consultation."

Ms Ahmed added to her 32,000 followers: “So dear @BarbicanCentre bosses listen to your customers. 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 & you know it. Thank you.”

She isn’t the only visitor to complain.

One person tweeted: “Never seen so many confused and desperate people!”

Another wrote: “Barbican now has gender-neutral toilets.They just changed the signs, formerly male ones state they have urinals. Guess what happens?”

The centre replied to Ms Ahmed’s tweets defending its decision to introduce the new toilets.

A spokeswoman told the Standard: "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 from relevant organisations and individuals.

"We 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.”

Rebecca Stinson, head of trans inclusion at Stonewall, said: "It’s really encouraging that more businesses want to help trans people feel safe and welcome.

"However, before making this move, businesses must research the best way to make a space fully inclusive and communicate the importance of inclusion clearly with staff.

"Other easy steps include designating specific gender neutral facilities and ensuring that trans people know they are welcome to use the facilities they find most appropriate."