We are disappointed to hear the negative discussions of transgender people in public responses, on radio other media outlets, to the Scottish Government consultation on Updating the School Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations1967. It is important to remember that everyone - including transgender people - have the right to have their gender identity respected.
The purpose of the Scottish Government’s consultation is to update standards for school buildings rather than debate the rights of individuals to access certain facilities. Many schools already have gender neutral toilets. One benefit of this is that it is cost-saving. The additional benefit, is that it can reduce concerns over safety and bullying for transgender young people, particularly those who identify with a non-binary gender identity. Glasgow City Council has stated that gender neutral bathrooms reduce bullying for all young people.
LGBT Youth Scotland, working with the STA, has developed guidance on supporting transgender young people in schools. This will be launched in the new school term. Below is an excerpt from this guidance on the issue of trans young people’s access to toilet facilities.
Toilets and changing rooms
Being able to use the school toilets and changing rooms is fundamental to young people's experience of school. All young people should feel comfortable using these facilities.
Due to feeling uncomfortable using toilets some transgender young people choose to go home to use the toilet or refuse to drink during the school day, this has obvious implications for their health and wellbeing, attendance and attainment. It is therefore important that trans young people are able to use the facilities they feel most comfortable with.
Some transgender young people feel uncomfortable about using the toilet or changing room which matches their gender identity. They worry about being teased or bullied, and would rather use the accessible toilet because it's a single cubicle. In changing rooms, they may be worried about other young people looking at them while they are getting changed.
Helpful guidelines about school toilets and changing rooms include:
It is also important to ensure that all learners feel safe using all school facilities; this can be assisted by improving privacy and clearly communicating procedures to report any incidents of bullying.
What the law says
There is no law in Scotland, or in the UK, which states that only people assigned male at birth can use men's toilets and changing rooms, or that only people assigned female can use women's toilets and changing rooms. Discrimination case law has established that transgender people who have started living in accordance with their gender identity must not be banned from using the facilities matching their gender identity.