Legislation in North Carolina requiring transgender people to use the public toilet according to the gender they were assigned at birth has provoked a heated debate in the United States. What do they do in Sweden?
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said people should use the toilet they feel most comfortable using, and a growing list of companies agree.
Target announced in mid-April 2016 that transgender customers and employees were welcome “to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity."
But not everyone welcomes the move.
Many people maintain that allowing people to choose which toilet they use would be an invasion of other people's privacy. Some people fear that it would give free reign to sexual predators.
Many women in particular don't feel comfortable with the idea of sharing rest rooms with people that are biologically male.
Rock and a Hard Place
Many transgender people feel caught between a rock and a hard place. If they use the women’s toilet, they get looked at with suspicion. If they use the men’s toilet, they might get beaten up.
Should there be a third toilet for transsexuals? That has, in fact, been tried at some rural schools in Thailand, where transgenderism is more socially acceptable.
But why are toilets segregated by sex in the first place?
The Scandinavian countries have a reputation for being ahead of the pack in terms of human sexuality. For example, they were the first countries in the world to legalize gay marriage.
While the United States legalized same-sex unions in 2015, Denmark led the way 26 years ago, recognizing gay marriages in 1989, followed by Norway in 1993, Sweden in 1994, and Iceland in 1996.
So how do Scandinavians handle the toilet issue?
When in Sweden ...
I arrived in Sweden less than two weeks ago. The first time nature called when I was in public, I thought I had wandered into the wrong rest room when I saw NO urinals AND a woman washing her hands at a sink.
As I hurriedly started to make my exit, a man and a woman walked in together. That’s when I realized the toilet was unisex. What a relief! I hadn’t committed a social faux pas after all!
That was at a food court. I discovered yesterday that the toilets at a shopping mall near my flat have unisex toilets, as well.
Gender specific toilets date back to the Victorian era, and they are still the norm in Sweden. But the trend is toward gender neutral facilities.
Once again, the progressive Scandinavians seem to be leading the way!