The trans-toilet wars come to Britain

The row over the Old Vic’s loos is just the start.

William McGee

The Old Vic theatre – or, more specifically, its bathroom facilities – became the staging ground of the culture war’s latest skirmish earlier this month. As part of a nine-month refurbishment, the London institution installed 22 new toilets in a bid to double the number of ladies’ loos, which had been beset by long queues.

Whether the theatre has actually fulfilled its pledge, however, has been hotly contested. All of the lavatories installed will be designated as gender-neutral, with men allowed access to any of them. The blocks are labelled as either cubicles or urinals, rather than men’s and women’s, and there is one specific gender-neutral loo.

Theatre publication the Stage decided to weigh in on the debate by publishing two opposing opinion pieces on the matter. Arts producer Amber Massie-Blomfield argued that the Old Vic’s upgrade would ‘enabl[e] those who don’t fit visual gender norms to relieve themselves safely’, while journalist Sarah Ditum claimed the new set-up ‘offers little help at a great cost to women, who are still stuck queueing, only now with their privacy compromised’.

As is now par for the course, social media went potty at Ditum’s ‘transphobic’ piece, prompting the Stage to remove both op-eds from its website. Ditum subsequently accused the publication of ‘gross editorial cowardice’.

A couple of days after the pieces were pulled, more than 20 of the Stage’s writers penned an open letter to their employer, professing to be ‘deeply angered and disappointed’ by Ditum’s piece, and saying the publication ‘has a particular level of responsibility in what it decides to report and commission’. They continued: ‘We believe that any transphobic sentiments… cannot be given oxygen in the name of supposed “free speech”.’ (Their scare quotes.) Many more think-pieces followed.

The Stage’s detractors seemed to be competing with each other in the hyperbole stakes. One trans academic, in another open letter, claimed that ‘the articles impacted the lives of trans people across the country’. He also admonished Ditum for using the ‘dog whistle’ of saying trans women are male, and had a pop at the Stage for not commissioning a trans writer (presumably himself) to opine on the subject. The Stage writers’ open letter went as far as to say that ‘trans rights are not an intellectual debate to be had in the pages of a trade newspaper – they are a matter of life and death’.

To be fair, the over-the-top reaction was not just confined to the pro-Old Vic side. Actress Frances Barber tweeted: ‘Suffragettes threw themselves under race horses to get us the vote. Now we aren’t even allowed to go to the loo.’ No one’s saying that, Frances.

Despite the outrage generated by the Old Vic loo debate, ‘gender-neutral’ toilets are hardly a new development. They have long existed under the older, less trendy designation of ‘unisex’ and can be found in many places, such as on planes and trains. What the new rebranding of ‘gender-neutral’, along with its right-on signage, speaks to is an insatiable yearning for companies and institutions to appear virtuous, rather than solve any practical problems.

Though this whole Old Vic business seems to have been flushed for the time being (Good Morning Britain’s Susanna Reid was the latest to weigh in on the issue, with a refreshingly sensible piece), it will surely not be long before the transgender toilet debate floats back up to the surface. It has become, depressingly, one of the issues of our age, drawing in even US presidents.

This particular chapter has shown that no matter how ‘progressive’ you are – as the Stage clearly likes to consider itself – you will never be able to satisfy the outrage mob.

Beneath the indignation of Ditum’s detractors, what we really find is a contempt for free speech, dressed up in the language of anti-bigotry. Those who insist on censorship of opinions they dislike should bear in mind that their own arguments could one day be used to silence them. This would be bad, even if they are talking shit.

William McGee is a spiked intern.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Comments

Marvin Jones

22nd October 2019 at 12:35 pm

I have never heard anything so asinine as trains, planes and one’s own homes have gender neutral toilets. But one is not sitting or standing right beside someone of the opposite sex, or in this case abnormal gender, trying to have a piss. Would any man not feel out of place while trying to urinate and a woman who believes that she is a man with female genitals tries to urinate standing up right next to him? would he not get drenched? This is insanity for even going this far!

Gareth Edward KING

20th October 2019 at 10:37 am

Whatever happened to the idea of a ‘cottage’? And I’m not referring to the ‘Swiss’ version in NW London! Such practices would be well nigh impossible with the undue presence of ladies! (for sure, the 100% real ones who definitely don’t have a penis!).

Eric Blair

20th October 2019 at 7:27 am

I’ve got a gender neutral toilet at home. It’s called the toilet. Lot of fuss about nothing, waht Spiked in it’s older incarnations would have called a moral panic.

H McLean

18th October 2019 at 11:51 pm

The intersectional left sold women down the river and don’t care in the slightest how this effects women’s safety and wellbeing. Of course, the feminists who embraced cancerous neoMarxist intersectionality in the first place are completely to blame for this, as are the weak politicians, complicit journalists and social justice activists who encouraged and allowed it to happen. So how did we get here?

The ideological idiocy of the trans debate has harmed many, including others in the vulnerable alphabet category and especially children questioning their sexuality – who would in all likelihood find a happy equilibrium if left to work through it on their own.

The conundrum is that feminist dogma claims women are forced into gender roles and have no agency in the face of the nasty overbearing white male patriarchy is now contradicted by the trans position that anyone can choose (and change at will) their orientation regardless of biology. It takes an enormous degree of doublethink to believe these contradictory positions, both of which are cornerstones of leftist academia. As we see, of course, the trans side is winning, not because it is intellectually valid but because it has more intersectional victim points and therefore must be considered more worthy.

I remember a time when self-acceptance was seen as a successful route to personal satisfaction. What’s happening now seems to be the polar opposite of that, and a mentally damaging pathway too.

In the intersectional wars, women are basically considered the new men, full of middle-class white cis-privilege and despised by the new left for it. It was always going to end up like this.

Ven Oods

18th October 2019 at 11:47 pm

“The blocks are labelled as either cubicles or urinals, rather than men’s and women’s, and there is one specific gender-neutral loo.”
Is that last type one of those Middle-Eastern holes in the ground with indented foot shapes to either side?

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

18th October 2019 at 8:37 pm

I don’t give a damn about this issue, and neither should you.

Marvin Jones

22nd October 2019 at 12:45 pm

You don’t have a choice. This is the madness that arrives with the creation of human rights and that everyone is equal. I wonder if Prince Charles or Michael Heseltine would regard themselves equal to the migrant who has just washed up on our shores this morning. This is the result of the most ignorant and most illiterate being pushed up the ladder of success for any reason but merit.

L Strange

18th October 2019 at 6:27 pm

Let’s be honest, whatever the refurbishment arrangements were, there would have been screeches of ‘outrage’.

Society is being asked to believe that men and women are totally identical, that men and women are completely different and that people are either men, women, both or neither solely on their say-so …all at the same time. It was impossible for the Old Vic to get this ‘right’.

Thanks to the toxic idiocy of identity-politics, for which Feminism takes a large share of the blame, this sort of stupidity will get worse and probably in ways worse than inconvenience for women.

May Loo

18th October 2019 at 8:20 pm

I am the kind of feminist who agrees with you on gender identity politics. Of course I will be called transphobic and other derogatory terms, but what bothers me is feminists like me are denied our free speech rights because we are not trans- positive. Back to gender identity, people seem to want to look for all sorts of ways they can claim to be oppressed aka intersectionality. Perpetual victimhood is not a good look for most people.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

18th October 2019 at 8:38 pm

Yes, down with this sort of thing.

Mark Lambert

18th October 2019 at 6:10 pm

Where has the idea of male decorum gone?
We all like to think that women do not even fart and even if we grudgingly have to admit that it happens…….they have their private place to do so.
Now they don’t. Who threw that basic principle of decorum and privacy in the bin? The trans mob? Of course.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

18th October 2019 at 8:37 pm

‘the trans mob’ lol

Jim Lawrie

18th October 2019 at 9:22 pm

I once made the mistake of accusing my 6 year old niece of frting, to which came the indignant reply, “Ladies don’t fart, they just cough in their pants”.

Marvin Jones

22nd October 2019 at 12:49 pm

I am a man, and have been for 71 years of my life. Now farting has become somewhat of a problem, I wonder if I should campaign for toilets for farters only?

Robin Harwood

11th November 2019 at 5:12 am

Me too. Perhaps I should change into a woman. I won’t have that problem then.

William Murphy

18th October 2019 at 5:31 pm

I recall decades ago going to the Design Centre near Piccadilly. I asked the way to the toilets. Yes, the Design Centre had toilets, but they were shut due to drug addicts injecting in the cubicles. I suppose that we should be grateful that anyone of any alleged gender can at least find a toilet in central London.

Ven Oods

29th October 2019 at 11:41 am

“Yes, the Design Centre had toilets, but they were shut due to drug addicts injecting in the cubicles.”
Poor design then, and in the Design Centre!

Dominic Straiton

18th October 2019 at 2:30 pm

The worst place to go to the bog is at the British deaf association.

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