Controversy As UCT Opens Gender Neutral Toilets

Luiz DeBarros

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has opened controversial gender neutral toilets on campus to serve transgender students or students who don’t want to define their sex or gender.

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The facilities are located on the bottom level of the Leslie Social Sciences Building.

They consist of three cubicles, each with a gender-neutral symbol, and a sign stating that “these toilets are for everyone, regardless of gender, identity or expression.”

According to UCT’s student newspaper, Varsity, the gender neutral toilets were requested by LGBTI students in March.

Jessica Breakey, the Student Representative Council (SRC) Transformation Co-ordinator, who championed the toilets, said that it was “time to start being creative in the way we view transformation on campus.”

Addressing statements from students that there may not be enough transgender people on campus to justify the bathrooms, she argued that this was irrelevant.

Rather, she said, the toilets were about UCT “acknowledging that gender fluidity exists and doing its best to accommodate and promote it.”

On her Facebook page she revealed that she was emotional and shocked by the many negative reactions she’d received about the toilets.

“It is a huge smack in the face of how far we still have to go,” she said. “It is actually a very proud moment for me and the critiques received have only reinforced the necessity of this on our campus.”

The SCR plans to work with the university to ensure that every new building on campus will have gender neutral toilets in future.

Scott Fuller, an LGBT student at UCT, welcomed the toilets, saying that they “are absolutely essential and very important, especially in such a public and diverse space like a university.”

“This isn’t about making a political statement. This is about creating a space for people who do not identify with the gender binary, or are of a third gender, or are transgender and get harassed when they enter the bathrooms of the gender they identify with,” he said.

Sandile Ndelu, another LGBT student, noted that, “The ironic thing is that those UCT students who are ‘uncomfortable’ with the idea of having gender neutral toilets are the very same people who are ‘uncomfortable’ with sharing gender coded toilets with transgender and intersex people. So then what must happen?”

“In a couple years it will be second nature to simply have male, female, and gender-neutral bathrooms.” added Fuller.

It’s been reported that gender neutral toilets are also set to be unveiled at Grahamstown’s Rhodes University.