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The Sunday Times comes under fire for ‘scaremongering’ and ‘anti-trans’ article on women’s toilets

Ella Braidwood July 29, 2018
Ladies’ loos at City landmarks may open to trans women. Sunday Times Article

Trans rights campaigners have criticised journalist Andrew Gilligan for his article in The Sunday Times. (The Sunday Times)

The Sunday Times has been heavily criticised for publishing a “misleading” article about the impact of a gender identity consultation put out by the City of London.

Under the Equality Act 2010, transgender people are allowed to use public toilets in accordance with their gender identity.

However, in an article published by the national newspaper on Sunday, senior correspondent Andrew Gilligan argued that the “Consultation on Gender Identity Policy” launched by the City of London Corporation could give trans women the ability to use ladies’ public toilets for the first time.

“Women’s lavatories at Tower Bridge, the Old Bailey, the Museum of London and dozens of other places could be opened to people who identify as transgender in the most radical move yet to promote their rights,” the article reads.

“The City of London, which owns some of the capital’s most famous tourist attractions and buildings, is proposing to open all its women’s facilities and services to anyone who ‘self-identifies’ as a woman or girl, whether or not they have transitioned.”

Edward Lord, chair of the City’s establishment committee, was quick to rebut the piece on Twitter, writing: “To be clear, thanks to the Equality Act 2010 #trans people are already welcome to use the @cityoflondon loos that most suit their gender. It is a shame that @mragilligan and @thesundaytimes have chosen to publish such a misleading article about our #GenderIdentity consultation.”

Speaking to PinkNews, Lord, who is non-binary, said: “The City of London’s loos are open to trans people and have been, certainly legally, since 2010. And actually, I reckon trans people have been using the loos [they want] for years.

“It’s really sad that Andrew Gilligan and The Sunday Times are using trans people and using our gender identity consultation as a political football.”

Lord, who is briefly quoted in The Sunday Times article, also highlighted that the government’s reform of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act would have no impact on the freedom for transgender people to choose their preferred bathroom.

They added: “Any reform to the Gender Recognition Act will have no impact on trans people’s ability to use toilets. They’re already legally allowed to self-identify for the use of a high-range of public services, including toilets.”

Lord described the article as “an example of this trans moral panic,” which “a combination of a small group of radical feminists and people on the political right are trying to generate around the Gender Recognition Act. And it’s really sad.”

Aimee Challenor, a trans woman and equalities spokesperson for the Green Party of England and Wales, condemned the article, saying that it created an atmosphere of fear against trans women.

“It’s deeply disappointing that yet again Andrew Gilligan is whipping up more anti-trans hatred this time by ignoring the fact that trans women have been using women’s loos for decades and this is nothing new,” she told PinkNews.

“Our right to pee in peace is protected by the Equality Act 2010, but Andrew’s scaremongering has very real consequences for trans people who risk assault when they use public toilets.”

Challenor added that rules forbidding trans people from using the bathroom of their choice can have a detrimental impact economically, highlighting the controversial “HB2” act in North Carolina.

Part of this act, which has since been repealed, banned transgender students in public schools from using their preferred bathroom, resulting in the state being boycotted by big businesses including PayPal and Deutsche Bank.

“The idea of policing toilets, something we’ve already seen a lot of in the United States, created a massive hit to local economies such as the mass-boycott of North Carolina by global companies, and has also been shown to largely have negative effects for cis women, especially cis lesbian women, who have been ejected from the toilets by gender police,” Challenor said.

“The fact is transphobes have no legitimate arguments and so are having to rely on ill-thought scaremongering, which has no basis in reality.”

Challenor has heavily criticised Gilligan’s article.

Speaking to PinkNews, Gilligan said: “The article pointed out that the City has last week launched a public consultation on whether, in its words, toilets should be ‘offered on a gender-neutral basis’ or whether users of single-sex services should ‘self-identify their gender.’

“If this were not a change to current practice, the City would not have gone to the trouble of consulting on it.”

Gilligan’s article goes on to state that the City of London’s consultation has “horrified some feminists, who said they were a ‘huge deal’ and a ‘mind-blowing’ erosion of women’s protected spaces.”

“Other places affected by the proposal, currently the subject of a consultation, include lavatories and changing facilities at the Barbican arts centre, Smithfield, New Spitalfields and Billingsgate markets, Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire, the City’s Golden Lane leisure centre and its only primary school,” the article reads.

Sarah Brown, a member of the Stonewall Trans Advisory Group, told PinkNews: “The idea that trans people using toilets that match our gender is a new thing is nonsense. We’ve been doing it for decades and the law protects us.”

More: Aimee Challenor, Andrew Gilligan, Edward Lord, The Sunday Times

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