Sheffield SU slammed by LGBT groups for gender-neutral toilets on club nights
They’ve caused controversy
Sheffield Students' Union is facing a backlash from LGBT groups for its rollout of gender-neutral toilets on club nights.
Leading LGBT charities have criticised Sheffield SU bosses for "upsetting" transgender students by "irresponsibly" shifting from single-sex loos to gender-neutral without changing anything except the signs.
Students returned in Freshers' Week to find one of two toilets in Foundry, the SU's club visited by thousands every week, were gender-neutral instead of male or female. No formal announcement was made.
Gender-neutral signs have appeared on doors and projected on a wall, but inside the toilets remain unchanged. The former men's is mostly urinals, the ex-women's 10 cubicles. National Union of Students guidance states they should be all-cubicles or based on a disabled toilet model.
One student said: "I, and most other people on club nights, are still treating them as single-sex toilets."
Now The Beaumont Society, Britain's oldest trans support group, has criticised Sheffield SU for failing to protect the rights and dignity of trans people by thinking "doing it on the cheap" is enough.
Dr Jane Hamlin, its president, told The Sheffield Tab: "They have not changed the toilets at Sheffield SU, they have just changed the signs. This is unlikely to be an improvement and may well upset many students.
"Making toilets gender-neutral has to be thought through carefully and funded properly so that the change is better for everyone. Doing it on the cheap is likely to cause many more problems than it solves."
Mermaids, the leading UK charity supporting trans children, added: "Anyone who is transgender or non-binary knows how distressing it can be to have to wait, go home, search for alternative facilities or just hold on, when they need to use the toilet. Acknowledgement of gender diverse people shouldn't stop at the toilet door."
The Sheffield Tab understands former SU welfare officer Katharine Swindells lobbied throughout last academic year to get gender-neutral toilets for events including Pop Tarts, Roar and Tuesday Club.
Pressure grew last September when an SU security guard was found asking people for their gender outside the building's existing gender-neutral toilets, located near the cinema. A student said he was banned from entering for being male.
Sheffield SU claims students were consulted over the latest change, but those who The Tab spoke to in Roar and Pop Tarts last week did not recall any opportunity to express their views.
While stood inside the former girls' toilets on Saturday night, one male student told The Sheffield Tab: "I'm well behind the idea of gender-neutral toilets, but the SU have totally fucked this up. Look at the stares I'm getting right now for being in here."
Dr Hamlin added: "It would seem to be irresponsible of those who took the decision to make this change not to have consulted widely about their plans, or at least publicised it prominently with clear explanations as to why this decision was made. Those who are unhappy about the change will blame trans people."
Jake Verity, Sheffield SU president, said: "The new gender neutral toilets in Fusion mean that our members can decide which toilet is suitable for them. To date, we have not received any complaints about toilet facilities on our nights out. As an organisation that is truly owned by its students, we always welcome student feedback about any aspect of our services."