Toilets and change room facilities

Visiting the toilet remains a serious obstacle for many trans and gender diverse students. In some cases, trans and gender diverse students avoid using the toilet altogether at school because of their needs have not been met with regard to toilet availability and accessibility. Problems associated with accessing safe toilet facilities contribute to some families’ decisions to home school trans and gender diverse young people.

Trans and gender diverse students have a right to access toilets and change rooms that match their affirmed gender, or a private facility, if they prefer. There is no legal basis to deny a student access to a toilet that matches their gender identity.

Schools are responsible for ensuring that toilet facilities are safe to use. Unless a trans or gender diverse student has expressed a preference to use a designated toilet (such as a staff toilet or an accessible toilet) they should not be required to use such a facility exclusively. Being singled out from the other students might make the student feel ostracised. It might also unnecessarily expose a student and draw daily attention to their gender identity. In some circumstances, it may even result in inadvertently outing the student.

Schools should ensure that accessible/staff toilets being made available to the student are not kept locked, or if locked, students who need access are given a key. The student should not have to get the key from the office every time they want to go to the toilet as this is differential treatment compared with other students.

Where changes to the physical structure (better cubicle walls and doors) are needed to accommodate a trans or gender diverse student, the needs of the student must be weighed against the cost of changes or alternatives. Usually, the relatively small cost associated with upgrading toilet facilities, compared to the student’s distress, means that the upgrade should occur.

Gender fluid or non-binary students should be allowed to use toilet facilities that they feel are appropriate and safe for them, and schools should appreciate that this choice may change, depending on the day and how safe the student feels at the time.

The school should discuss toilet and change room options available to a transitioning student in an open way, so that the student does not feel pressured into a decision they are not comfortable with. Following up regularly with the student is also advisable, as what might have seemed okay when it was first discussed might be problematic in practice, and adjustments may be needed.

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