The Sugarhouse nightclub, run by Lancaster University Students' Union, is different to any other nightclub in the city.
For starters, the profits go back to students rather than into someone's back pocket, but it's more than that. Because The Sugarhouse is run by the students' union it is/should be run by students, and this means that we can make it match their needs, make it a safe and inclusive space and use it to lead change and make political statements (don't worry, students won't be given a placard the next time they come, health and safety would not be impressed...).
With this in mind I found it rather worrying that The Sugarhouse was not accessible for all LGBTQ+ individuals, myself included, which for me was shameful. There was a group of students who until now could not use the club and who would have had to leave the venue and go home to pee!
As an officer I have heard many outlandish requests and many humbling ones, and far too often we give too much time to the popular demands of the majority rather than the basic needs of the few.
That's why this summer we have created a gender neutral set of toilets in The Sugarhouse. They are simply marked as 'toilets', because that's what they are; toilets - doing the audacious thing of letting everyone be able to pee. But this was not as easy as it should have been, and it has come through the hard work of a few people coming together to make the Sugarhouse more inclusive.
PHOTO:Lancaster University Students' Union Vice-Presidents Katie Capstick, Anna Lee and Tom Stapleton in the new gender neutral toilets at The Sugarhouse nightclub.
It is often assumed that people only define as a man or a woman (often described as a binary), but this is not the case. Nothing in nature is always a binary and gender is no exception. A survey by Gendered Intelligence (a trans charity specifically focused on trans youth) showed that approximately 30% of young trans people define as non-binary. This is a group of people who are oppressed in society in many ways and inaccessible toilets is just another in a long list.
As a trans person going to the toilet in public is scary. I used to get really anxious, which made me need to go even more. I used to go the whole day holding it in just out of fear. Many trans people face violence and ridicule when they go to the toilet of their gender.
People need to mind their own business and to quote a poster:
"If you're in a public bathroom and you think a stranger's gender does not match the sign on the door, follow these steps:
1. Don't worry about it, they know better than you."
I only wish everyone would follow this step.
Yet there is an area of concern I must address. I have already seen some people talk about the notion that if men and women are in the same toilet, men will have no choice but to rape the women going to the loo. The toilets are not the problem. Rapists cause rape, not toilets, not clothes and not victims; and any transfer of the blame from the rapist is just rape apologism and/or victim-blaming which just plain wrong.
Gender-neutral toilets are not a gimmick, they are not some simple rubber stamp of liberalism or PC gone potty; they are equal rights, and nothing should stop equality.
It's time for gender-neutral toilets to be normalised and made mandatory in venues all across the country, not just in clubs or student unions, but in the work place, in the streets, everywhere. It may shock you to learn that there's a gender-neutral toilet in your own home - but the world hasn't ended, has it?
- There's more on this on the LUSU website.