How gender-neutral toilets may help battle women's toilet problems


September 05, 2019 13:26:19

A Hugh Jackman concert in Brisbane has sparked a heated debate over unisex toilets and whether there are adequate restroom facilities at entertainment venues.

A caller to ABC Radio Brisbane’s Evenings program said the 20-minute half-time interval was inadequate for the number of people who needed to use the restrooms — and the problem was worse for women.

“When you go to the toilet you’ve got these huge big lines of women but then you look at the men’s toilet … and there’s just no line-up,” Jo from Redcliffe told ABC Brisbane’s Kelly Higgins-Devine.

“It came to desperate measures where I thought: ‘I don’t want to miss the second part of the show, I need to pee, I don’t think the men will mind’.”

But it’s not just an issue at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre (BEC).

Studies show men take an average of 60 seconds in a toilet and women take 90 seconds — that’s 50 per cent longer.

If there are the same number of toilets for males and females at any venue, this will result in a major bottleneck in and out of the restrooms.

An obvious solution to the issue is introducing more unisex or gender-neutral bathrooms.

A spokesperson for the BEC said they were prevented from introducing unisex toilets by the current Queensland building regulations, which make it difficult for venues built before 2007.

Tony Mitchell, manager of technical services with Master Builders Queensland, said innovative thinking was required by venues to work within the regulations.

“For what’s pre-existing there is a conundrum there about how you address what’s already in place,” Mr Mitchell said.

“That would have to be possibly a development application with a new building approval, a new design … something needs to change [with the regulations]. I can only agree with that.”

The incident has led to a broader conversation about not just how to fix the problem but whether there are enough public toilets that cater for transgender people.

Australian Transgender Support Association Queensland’s Kristine Johnson said there was a long way to go before all bathrooms were made unisex but she thought that would be the ideal solution.

“I think we’re quite a way behind the eight ball in regards to just having the one unisex toilet. It’s not like it’s going to be accepted,” Ms Johnson said.

“It would be lovely to have more gender-inclusive toilets, especially at big venues — just like you’d like to see more disabled toilets in large venues.

“[For now] just a sign that says ‘use the bathroom of your preferred gender’ should be enough but that would upset a lot of people.”

Here’s what you had to say about more unisex bathrooms

“I vote yes, but the urinals need to be hidden down the far end of the toilet in a separate room as we don’t want to see or smell them.” — Hellena H

“No — it increases the opportunity for someone to be assaulted.” — Irene G

“If you said no to this, you’ve never been to a large-scale event. We all wee, if you’re a lady and you’re happy to go unisex it will obviously be popular.” — Kane L

“Every toilet in my house — unisex. Every toilet in an aircraft — yep, unisex. Every disabled toilet — unisex. It’s not that hard!” — Lyn F

“I quite often use the men’s if there’s a long line. Stuff waiting in the queue, waste of my time. Unisex toilets would be great!” — Lisa W

“There’s plenty of toilets, just make them all cubicles instead of urinals. At these kind of events there’s always heaps of people so I can’t see how there would be any safety concerns.” — Emma C






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