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Why the ABC couldn't follow up on Gillard - too busy reporting on gender-neutral toilets for transsexuals

Their ABC in their element.

 

Transgender people withdrawing from society due to lack of gender-neutral toilets

Posted 

For most people, using a public toilet is a no-brainer, but for Mildura transgender woman Aurora, the thought fills her with dread.

"Half the time I won't leave the house because it's too hard to find a toilet that I feel safe in using," she said.

"I am scared of violence and scared of being judged."

The 25-year-old said she had been threatened a number of times for using men's toilets during her transition.

"Some females were complaining that I was using the [female] bathroom, so when I used the male bathroom, someone threatened to do some disgusting things to me."

Finley, 24, is transitioning to a man, and did not anticipate that performing one of the most basic daily functions would see him withdrawing from society.

"I've been in lots of situations where I've just left events because I've needed to use the toilet and I wasn't feeling confident."

Finley believes transitioning takes time.

"There is no set time where you start passing as a certain gender, so even if you're just transitioning from one to another, you don't know when to transition toilets," Finley said.

Schools get on board for safety

While there are no laws to enforce councils to have gender-neutral toilets, the education sector is making ground.

Last year, the South Australian State Government approved a new policy that allows students to use toilets of the gender they identify with.

While there is a handful of unisex toilets around the city, Aurora and Finley said there was not enough.

They are calling for gender-neutral toilets to be mandatory.

"It would make a world of difference for our community [to have gender-neutral toilets]," Aurora said.

"We could go out and socialise like normal people if there are toilets we can use."

Toilets split community

Mildura local Steve said he was not sure if he would like an open door policy for the city's toilets.

"While I'm not trying to hurt anyone's feelings, I'm not sure I would want my daughter sharing a toilet with someone who used to be a man and might still look like a man," he said.

An older Mildura man, who did not want to named, suggested there was an option for a separate toilet for the trans community.

"I think they need to have their own space so everyone in the community feels comfortable," he said.

"They pay rates just like everyone else and they should be able to go to the toilet if they need to, without feeling scared or potentially scaring anyone."

But others like Mildura resident Fiona said she did not see what the big deal was.

"I couldn't care less if a transgender woman was using the toilet while I was in there, and I would hope my daughter felt the same," she said.

"Targeting transgender people as the only group who commit crimes in public toilets is ridiculous."

Countering stigma associated with being transgender

Transgender Victoria executive director Sally Goldner said more conversation and less legislation was needed to counter the stigma associated with the transgender community.

"We have the laws in place. It's about communicating and enforcing those laws," she said.

Ms Goldner said the real issue was the myth that transgender people contributed disproportionately to rates of violence.

"The real problem is [with] males who are abusive towards women," she said.

"It's got nothing to do with transgender people, so [being victimised] is not on."

Instead, she said more needed to be done to protect everyone from violence no matter what their orientation was.

"We are like every human with a body," Ms Goldner said.

"We need to go to the toilet, wash our hands and leave. So why we would face [prejudice] is utterly illogical."

Council considers unmarked bathrooms

While nothing has been set in stone, Mildura Rural City Council is working on a 10-year plan to improve the region's public toilets, with gender-neutral toilets an option.

"Having gender-neutral cubicles is certainly what we are looking to do," asset services manager Mike Mooney said.

"We have heard there is a need for it, but up until now we haven't had the opportunity to do anything about that.

"This is what this [10-year public toilet strategy] is about."

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