LGBTQ Issues: Gender-Neutral Toilets (GNTs)


Just a week, I sat in a very long meeting regarding Gender Neutral Toilets (GNT’s), and their importance in the academic life of LGBTQ students. I decided to join a very meddlesome LGBTQ society in the UK, which I have to admit has become a rich source for my knowledge and critical thinking on the subject.

During the meeting, and bless my ignorance I asked why is it so important then to have GNTs within a campus. A pause of a few seconds followed, and then a lovely young girl stood up, who we may call Janet for now, and stared right at me and asked me if she looks like a girl. Again, bless my ignorance at the moment, I said yes.

Then, she disclosed in front of everyone that she is a man-to-woman transgender, who has not yet gone through the complete procedure. She looked at me and said, “I actually have to walk for twenty minutes to a public restroom if I want to use one.”

What shocked me? She is a young girl who is still in a process of changing gender and is not welcome in the gents because she is a girl, but she is also not welcome in the ladies because she needs to stand up! What happened to the values of inclusiveness here? Policymakers and decision-makers are still debating on how GNTs are not important. But if there is even one person who is in Janet’s shoes, then it is a necessity to remove every potential risk for the psychological and emotional effect that will have a negative impact later in life on that individual.

I believe in critical thinkers, especially when it comes to social workers. How impacted may an individual’s well-being be if, within a whole university campus, you pay for services (to be delivered to YOU), you mainly find “failure” of delivering a basic service?

I had a talk with her after that disclosure and she told me that she already knew of three transgender people who have dropped out of school, because of the same reasons, and to an extent, transgender in sensitive environments.

I very much wish that this post will raise questions as Janet is teaching us something here. Social Work believes in change. And we are all followers of the same belief and values, regardless of types of practice. LGBTQ client systems may be in any type of social work service provision, and awareness of how our client-system might feel may raise a point for better and more effective practice.

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Panagiotis Pentaris

Dr. Panagiotis Pentaris is a Senior Lecturer in Social Work and Integrated Care. He is a Social Worker with particular specialty in Thanatology. LGBTQ issues, due to his personal sexual orientation as well, have become a critical focus for him since more than seven years ago. Follow: View all posts by Panagiotis Pentaris

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