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UCT introduces pee-for-all toilets

The University of Cape Town is to introduce gender-neutral toilets, aimed at students who are transgender or who don't fit a specific gender identity.

Instead of being allocated for males or females, three cubicles in the social sciences building will carry the international gender-neutral sign and another sign stating "these toilets are for everyone, regardless of gender, identity or expression".

Similar facilities are available at many universities in the US and have recently been rubber-stamped at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.

Jessica Breakey, the transformation representative on the UCT SRC, said: "There is a lot of focus on transformation at UCT, with our admission policy, but we wanted to do something tangible. Transformation is almost always about race here and seldom about gender or sexuality.

"We approached the university's properties and services division and there was really no hesitation. I was expecting it to be much harder than it was," she said.

The SRC now hopes to secure a similar commitment to that made by Rhodes University to include gender-neutral toilets in every new building built on campus.

The executive director of UCT properties and services, Andre Theys, said: "When the SRC approached us, we consulted with various departments that have expertise in this and decided to run it as a pilot project. We will watch the pilot project closely to inform further discussion."

Breakey says the hardest part has been dealing with the mixed reaction from students.

"Some people think it's the best news ever, but others have complained [it is] wasting money and is un-African."

One Twitter user wrote: "I can't believe UCT is serious about running gender-neutral toilets. I'll go to res to use the loo, honestly."

Another joked that the loos were for "couples who go to the toilet together".

Leslie Liddell, director of the Triangle Project, an NGO representing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, said the UCT move was "very important".

The US-based Transgender Law Centre says that toilets are regularly a source of discomfort and worse for transgender people.

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