Friday, 11 October 2013

Welcome!

Die deutsche Version dieses Eintrags ist hier.

Hello, and welcome to the start of something beautiful. This project aims to document the availability of gender-neutral toilets throughout Switzerland, raise awareness of the need for gender-neutral (and otherwise accessible) toilets, and create/contribute to apps so that this information is as useful as possible.

My name is Rachel and I will be blogging further on all of this, as well as - I hope! - getting input from lots of other people. (Maybe you?) For now, here are some quick questions and answers.

Why gender-neutral toilets?

Lots of reasons! For example, suppose you have a gender presentation that other people find hard to classify as 'male' or 'female'. You could be transitioning from the gender you were assigned to at birth to the one that fits who you are. You could be a butch woman, a feminine man, or a genderqueer person, to name a few possibilities. In public situations, going to the loo can be a frightening ordeal, where picking the 'wrong' choice out of the little girls' room and the little boys' room might get you beaten up, thrown out by security, or verbally abused.

To take another example, perhaps you are a woman accompanying a young boy, or a man accompanying a young girl. If your child isn't ready to go to the toilet by themself yet, which room do you take them into?

One further reason to have gender-neutral toilets is that they can even out supply and demand. Have you ever stood in a long queue for the loo, watching people step in and out of the other room as they please? Wouldn't it be great if that wasn't necessary?

What information is out there already?

The best resource I've found so far is safe2pee.org. Their community-sourced database is searchable by location and specifies if toilets are free, accessible and/or gender neutral. Unfortunately, it's mostly limited to the USA. There's only one toilet listed for all of Switzerland!

The city of Zürich, where I happen to live, has a great website about their public toilet provision. It includes a mobile page where you can search for the one closest to your position, both for wheelchair-accessible and other toilets. This information is only available in German, however. Besides this, while most of these public toilets are nongendered, I don't know if all of them are and it's not specified in the app or the raw data.

I don't yet know how other Swiss cities and cantons publicise this information. Based on experience, I'd guess a lot of it has been made public but in a very nonstandardised way.

What can we do to improve things?

Since safe2pee.org already has a few thousand entries in its database, as well as an API and a userbase, I don't see a point in reinventing the wheel to make a Swiss-specific catalogue. Here are my first thoughts on useful steps:
  • We need to add lots and lots more Swiss gender-neutral and accessible toilets to safe2pee.org.
  • We need to raise awareness of the need for gender-neutral toilets here, so that they are considered as an option when opening public services, renovating businesses, etc.
  • There should be apps or mobile web pages to enable quick access to this information, available in as many languages as possible - at least German, French and English.
Everyone can contribute in some way! Talk about gender-neutral toilets with your friends. Tell the owner of your favourite café that you appreciate the accessible loos they provide. If you spot a great toilet, add it to safe2pee.org. If there are resources out there that I haven't mentioned, or things I haven't thought of, please let me know and I'll add them here.

Translators, programmers and guest bloggers are also very much appreciated. I plan to translate all my posts here into German, for example, but I don't speak any other language and I'd love help there. I'm planning on learning how to write apps so I can make the ones I think would be useful - but if you have a better idea, go ahead and make it!

Oh, and ...

Gender-neutral and accessible toilets are a cause I really care about, because I've seen the trouble people can have when they're not available. However, I have never personally had trouble accessing a loo because of mobility issues or my gender presentation. If I get things wrong out of ignorance, please let me know and I will correct them. Similarly, if I make any translation mistakes, corrections are welcome.

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