A new study which sampled the views of the parents of 11 gender-nonconforming children found that a majority of the parents feel that the introduction of gender-neutral toilets is a superficial measure which singles out their child as being “different”.
This study is the first of its kind in Ireland and along with parents, it examined the experiences of educators of trans and non-binary students.
One parent said she felt the principal of her child’s school was proclaiming that having gender-neutral toilets was “progressive and really quite trendy” and that this felt like “a box-ticking exercise with no awareness that we are still stereotyping and placing children in boxes”.
The national discussion on this issue sees the introduction of gender-neutral toilets as an action towards equality. In the recently published LGBTI+ Youth Strategy, gender-segregated spaces were noted as a remaining challenge for transgender and non-binary young people.
Many parents spoke about the difference in standards across schools as to what sufficed as a “gender-neutral” toilet.
Some users were given access to ability-adapted toilets which they felt was unsatisfactory.
“I don’t want him to have a special toilet… He doesn’t want to stand out,” said one parent. Many parents see such a change as a superficial change with no guarantee of a change in wider gender practices across the school system.
Universities across Ireland have hurried to introduce gender-neutral toilets across the country but some believe this is a “token gesture”.
University of Limerick emeritus sociology professor Pat O’Connor said the move towards gender-neutral facilities is a “soft measure and is only paying lip service to real equality. They’re avoiding the real problem.”
The study, entitled Exploring Gender Identity and Gender Norms in Primary Schools, was conducted by Dr Aoife Neary of the School of Education at the University of Limerick, and Catherine Cross, education and family support officer with Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI).
Read the full report here.
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