Oxford students block plans to introduce gender neutral toilets at college as women may feel 'uncomfortable'

Students at Somerville college have voted against gender neutral toilets

An Oxford University college has voted down proposals to introduce gender neutral toilets over concerns that women might feel “uncomfortable” using the facilities.

Students at Somerville College voted down a motion to make college lavatories unisex, despite the college administration reportedly favouring the plan.

The motion was proposed by Eilidh Wilson, college LGBTQ+ Officer, who told the meeting it was “important that this college shows recognition of non-binary people and think this should be reflected in buildings and facilities available to people”.

According to Oxford University paper Cherwell, the planned introduction of gender neutral toilets has now been cancelled.

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The gender neutral toilet proposal was blocked by students

The proposals suggested dropping ‘male’ and ‘female’ door signage in favour of ‘gender neutral toilet’ and ‘gender neutral toilet with urinals’ in parts of the college.

Gender-neutral toilets in public spaces are designed to help trans and non-binary people feel more comfortable.

However, students argued that as “many women have had experiences of harassment”, they would feel uncomfortable sharing toilets with men.

One student said that some men would “feel awkward” using the toilet knowing that women could enter at any time.

Katt Walton, Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society President, said: ‘I think the result of the vote is very disappointing, the minutes of the meeting express opinions that have undertones of transphobia and show that many people are failing to see the importance of Somerville recognising non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals.

‘The implementation of gender neutral toilets in many other colleges has been successful and without issue.

‘Worries of sexual violence and/or harassment are definitely important however, statistics show gender neutral toilets do not raise the chances of experiencing sexual violence or harassment and we should not use this as an argument to erase non-binary or gender non-conforming people.

‘The arguments about sexual violence and harassment also potentially propagate the toxic myth that trans women and trans femme people are perpetrators of sexual violence and a danger to cisgendered women, something that is grossly untrue.’

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs)

The news comes as Sadiq Khan said that more gender-neutral toilets should be built in London.

The mayor said he was concerned London does not have enough appropriate toilet facilities for non-binary people.

“I have vowed to be a mayor for all Londoners so I am determined to ensure that everyone has the ability to enjoy our great city to its fullest,” he said.

“Toilets are a vital public service and can help to shape the experience of the capital for those who live here and for those visiting.

“We need a range of toilets that reflect the incredible diversity of this city – giving people the confidence to move around London with dignity.”

Ruth Hunt, chief executive of Stonewall, the LGBT rights charity, said: “We’re pleased the mayor has used the London Plan to call on councils to create more gender-neutral toilets, and so help meet the needs of all Londoners and the city’s many visitors.

“Gender-neutral toilets are a practical solution for many people, for many reasons and it’s a powerful demonstration of acceptance that has benefits for everyone.