Shanghai is to become the next city in China to introduce unisex public toilets. The project, to be launched on November 19th (also World Toilet Day) will be limited to a park in the Pudong New Area, while officials wait to see if locals embrace the concept, according to the BBC.
“By launching the program, we want to tell people that gender can no longer simply be defined by male and female only…”
The project has been launched with the intention of cutting down waiting times for women wishing to use public lavatories. The removal of gender-specific toilets will echo measures taken in Beijing, where gender-neutral bathrooms were introduced earlier this year.
The Beijing project was launched in May with the intention of fighting discrimination against transgender people. Roughly 30 locations in China’s capital have embracied gender-neutral facilities. Yang Gang, director of the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute, told the Global Times that “By launching the program, we want to tell people that gender can no longer simply be defined by male and female only, and we want to encourage a discussion about gender and sex.”
“China’s progress has nevertheless met similar concerns raised elsewhere, particularly in the United States.”
China’s progress has nevertheless met similar concerns raised elsewhere, particularly in the United States. In Beijing, Yang recognised that safety remained a concern for many, including Guo Ruixiang, a project coordinator for UN Women, who was quoted saying “For public areas like shopping malls, unisex toilet programs are not suitable unless they have full security facilities. But I believe these unisex toilets can be used in office buildings,”
Chinese citizens have also taken to Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, to voice their opposition to the Shanghai project. One user said the they didn’t support the idea because “men and female are different.”
The renewed efforts by China to remove gender from restrooms comes just as the United States Supreme Court has announced that it will hear the case of Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., but not until next year. That case, which will determine if the Obama administration has the right to oblige public schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom aligned with their gender identity, could have far reaching implications for the United States.
A recent Pew survey shows that only about 51% of Americans believe people should be allowed to use the public restroom of the gender with which they currently identify. The same survey nevertheless showed that support was growing as people became more exposed to the transgender community.
The vast majority of Americans (87%) now say they know someone who is gay or lesbian, but only about 30% claim to know someone who is transgender. That statistic is still double what it was last year, if compared to a 2015 GLAAD Study which showed only 16% of people had met someone who was transgender. At the time, that would have meant you were more likely to know someone who claimed to have seen a ghost.