In May this year the Obama Administration issued a directive which ordered public schools in the U.S.A. to allow kids to use whichever toilet facility corresponded to their gender identity. (12 states have since declared intention to sue the Government over that directive.)

While it is good that the government is considering trans welfare, I can’t see that the directive will help any of the underlying problems faced by transgender youths, other than by encouraging kids and teachers to discuss trans issue and become more aware; a dialogue which should be welcomed in all schools worldwide. Understanding is the first step towards acceptance.

By allowing kids to choose which toilet they used based on their gender identity puts pressure on kids who might not actually have worked that out for themselves yet to pick one. Those who identify as the opposite gender to their birth, may find themselves stuck between a rock and hard place, facing potential abuse in whichever toilet they chose to use for similar reasons. Developing kids trying to find a comfortable fit for their unique personalities within society could be devastated with the attention something like this draws to them.

Even me as an adult, living in a country which is comparatively very trans aware can finds it quite stressful. I do identify as a woman, but I don’t always present as one and there are situations where I would feel more comfortable in one than the other.

So why aren’t genderless, unisex toilets even being considered, especially in schools where you shouldn’t be pressuring kids to pick and choose something which can be fluctuating as they go through puberty? Unisex toilets are something I believe should be brought into common use globally. To have to choose one or the other is a contributory factor in limiting the freedom and confidence of many transgendered people, who don’t venture out much for fear of having to use a public toilet.  Many experience abuse from women in female rest rooms and face a very real threat of violence if using a men’s.

China is trialing unisex loos, though in response to the amount of time women face queuing in public toilets. Wouldn’t having unisex facilities in schools simply teach kids to interact better between the sexes, and develop some toilet etiquette at the same time? Certain considerations would need to be made of course, such as eliminating gaps at the tops of cubicles so they cannot be peered over, minimizing gaps at bottoms for similar reasons, and having a separate urinal section through a door beyond.  I’ve spoken to friends in school management who agree that this would be a sensible way to go and with interaction between the genders – all genders – be quite likely encourage kids to support each other in their differences and the harassment sometimes faced by having those differences.

With November 19th being world toilet day, here’s a toilet travel tip for male visitors to Thailand. Don’t turn round and punch someone if, while standing at a public urinal, a man comes up behind you while you’re mid-flow, places a hot towel on your neck and proceeds to give you a shoulder and back massage as you relieve yourself. It’s very commonplace in local bars and restaurants here but can be quite disconcerting first time it happens, as I remember from when I used to use urinals. It does aid the flow though and there’s nothing untoward about it. (A tip of about 20 Baht is expected.) Sadly no one pops into the cubicles in the lady’s to give you a foot massage.

Update. Trang Thai Temple is considering the genders: