Toilets are a flash (flush?) point of trans inclusion. When there are just two choices, a door marked “ladies” and another marked “gents”, anyone who doesn’t fit into what society thinks “woman” and “man” are expected to look like may not feel safe using them. But have toilets always been segregated in this way? Gender neutral facilities have made the news in recent years, are they anything new? 

Dr Francis Ray White of the University of Westminster looks at 150 years of public toilets and how contemporary transphobia fits into this history.

References/Further Reading

Barker, M.J. and Scheele, J. (2019) Gender: A Graphic Guide. London: Icon Books.

Douglas, M. (1966) Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge.

Gershenson, O. and Penner, B. (2009) Ladies and Gents: Public Toilets and Gender. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Nirta, C. (2017) Marginal Bodies: Trans Utopias. London: Routledge.

Slater, J. and Jones, C. (2018) Around the Toilet: A Research Project Report about what Makes a Safe and Accessible Toilet Space. Available from Sheffield Hallam University Research Archive (SHURA) at:

Francis Ray White is a sociology lecturer and GI volunteer. They like to think about gender, bodies, toilets and time travel.


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