I’ve been sitting on this post, plucking up the courage to post what could be an unpopular opinion. I wrote this on New Year’s Day.
Last night I went out with my husband and child to a New Year’s Eve fireworks event. There were street stalls selling all kinds of food and goods. There were so many people! I think the fireworks event that would normally draw the crowd to the big city wasn’t on so everyone came to my little town. The volume of people was such that there was precious little, if any, social distancing.
Without wanting to…and believe me, I wish I hadn’t…I overheard a conversation amongst a group of young people. Within the group it seemed there was a person who was transgender or non-binary, at least. They were answering questions from the friends about their trans life. I wasn’t listening as much as hearing them above the ambient crowd noise because they were walking very closely behind me.
My ears pricked up and so did my irritation when one friend asked something like, “What do you do when you need to use the toilet?” The transgender person answered, “Oh yeah, that’s a problem. I usually just have to use a disabled toilet.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I feel sure that it would be a very uncomfortable experience to be having to use the toilet of the wrong gender. It would appear that there is a need in society for more accommodation by way of unisex toilets. Frankly, that would solve an awful lot of problems (e.g. the queues for the female toilets are always longer than the for the male ones, etc). However, as a person who uses the disabled toilets because of my disability, upon hearing this comment I was seeing red.
It took all my strength not to turn around and go full Karen on this kid! How dare they! I agree that they should have the dignity of not having to use the toilet of the wrong gender but, as far as I know, being transgender is not a disability. I’m not sure what gender the young person was nor does it matter to me. What matters is that they should select the toilet which best reflects who they feel they are and leave the disabled facilities to those of us who actually need them!!!
I require a grab rail when going to the toilet. I’m still waiting on home modifications from the NDIS to make my bathroom and toilet safe for my use so I’m very reliant on my husband on those occasions when my body fails me. This is such a significant thing in my daily life that I tend to prefer to use public disabled toilets because they are safer for me than my toilet at home.
Disabled toilets are for disabled people. I could not tell you the number of times I’ve had to wait to use a disabled toilet only to see a very able-bodied person emerge. I know not all disabilities are visible. It seems a fair assumption that the person was able-bodied when they give me a sheepish look when coming out. Some have had the decency to apologise. One time I was waiting and there was another lady waiting after me. The wait was so long that the other lady gave up and went to an ambulant toilet. When the toilet (ab)user came out, it was clear she was an employee at one of the shops. She’d been crying. I suspect that she’d had a bad moment and just needed a place to be alone. While I can sympathise with that, the disabled toilet is not meant to be a little sanctuary away from the world. It is where people with disabilities go to the TOILET!!!
Back to my point… If you are able-bodied and don’t require the special equipment found only in the disabled toilet, please leave them alone and free for those of us who do. If you are trans, embrace your gender and make use of the toilets designated for that gender. Lobby for better facilities. Don’t diminish the experience of other disadvantaged, under privileged or disenfranchised people to improve your own.