Which toilet should you use if you feel neither fully male nor female? Erasmus Pride, the LGBT network of EUR and Erasmus MC, therefore likes to realise gender-neutral toilets in each building on Campus Woudestein.
In their view, a gender-neutral toilet would offer these users an environment where they don’t have to fear judgemental stares or hostile comments. Such a measure would also signal the University’s acceptance of this group. You don’t need much to make one either: simply stick a sign with a ‘gender-neutral’ symbol on a few accessible toilets and Bob’s your uncle.
But for the time being, the university won’t be following suit on the Woudestein campus. “We don’t receive many indications of a widespread need for this facility,” an EUR spokesperson informed EM in late April. Erasmus Pride can’t specify how strong the need for gender-neutral toilets is either. They estimate that a few percent of the students could be prospective users. The Erasmus University College, nevertheless, opened gender-neutral toilets on the 11th of May.
EM therefore gets to the bottom of the matter. In the Netherlands, the drive for gender-neutral toilets got underway in 2014, with pupils at around 100 secondary schools putting campaign stickers on their school toilets. Two years ago, the Netherlands’ first gender-neutral public toilet was opened by COC Eindhoven. By now, you can also find them at the universities of Nijmegen, Leiden and Amsterdam, as well as government buildings in Utrecht and Amsterdam.
The actual need for these gender-neutral toilets was determined on the basis of anecdotal evidence. Which is understandable, because there is next to no research regarding the demand for these facilities in the Netherlands. Based on its own research, the Transgender Network concluded in 2015 that more than 1 out of 5 transgenders never or hardly ever feel safe using a public toilet. Indeed, over the course of 12 months, 5 percent of this group had been subjected to insults or violence in these locations. And in a 2012 survey that focused on the lives of transgenders in the Netherlands, a few of the respondents argued for legislation stipulating the realisation of gender-neutral toilets at schools and in public areas.
Shrouded in mystery
In the United States, a lot of qualitative studies into transgenders at universities have been performed. One conclusion: there is a need for gender-neutral toilets. In addition, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey indicated that one quarter of the transgenders were not allowed to use the toilet of their preference.
But how many transgenders are we talking about? A large-scale population survey focusing on public health in the Netherlands in 2011 showed that close to 1 out of 20 people do not feel unequivocally ‘male’ or ‘female’. Around 1 in 250 Dutch citizens wish to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Based on this survey, Transgender Network Netherlands estimates that some 1,000 to 5,000 transgenders can be found at the Dutch universities. In the case of Erasmus University, this would boil down to 100 to 500 transgenders. Still, just how many of these individuals also feel an urgent need for gender-neutral toilets remains shrouded in mystery.