In simple terms, a gender-neutral washroom is one which can be used by all gender identities. Gender-neutral washrooms are essentially user-friendly for people with disabilities and menstruators. That is, gender-neutral washrooms implicitly have the characteristics of a period-friendly washroom where one may find pad vending machines, disposal bins etc.
While we are busy advocating for inclusion of non-binary and trans identities, we have to remember that inclusion doesn’t stop at assigning a category of ‘third gender’ on application forms. It is equally important that the same inclusion is reflected in our actions and surroundings. However, in reality, this is not the case. Our public spaces do not reflect inclusivity as much as they should.
Public washrooms further intensify rigid assignment of sex/identity on the basis of societal constructs. Society has imposed this thought on us that sex can only be defined in binaries: male and female. We have failed to incorporate transgender and non-binary identities when it comes to public washrooms. Making public washrooms inclusive is the need of the hour.
Transgender and non-binary identities often feel too threatened to use public washrooms due to unwanted thrashing, taunting etc. Most importantly, owing to the stigma and taboos surrounding menstruation, non-binary menstruating identities face a lot of shaming and discrimination. To end this, what is required is gender-neutral public washrooms that are inclusive for all. There can be a common entrance to the washrooms and then they can be divided into sections for all identities so that no one has to undergo the prying eyes of people for their non-adherence to the fixed gender identities imposed by society.
There is little to no conversation around the fact that some transgender and non-binary people menstruate. This further adds to the problem of discrimination that LGBTQ+ individuals face. Hence, we need to begin with making our washrooms inclusive and period-friendly for all identities.
Most importantly, public washrooms in spaces such as metro stations, railway stations etc. should be the first place to make this change because both menstruators and non-menstruators who are daily commuters face a lot of difficulties owing to the lack of access to clean and hygienic washrooms.