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French university introduces gender-neutral toilets in nationwide first

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French university introduces gender-neutral toilets in nationwide first
A gender-neutral toilet in an American restaurant. Photo: AFP
15:10 CEST+02:00
The University of Tours in central-west France has become the first in the country to offer gender-neutral toilets, in an effort to make transgender students feel more comfortable.

As well as the new toilets, the university has also announced that starting from this year, it will recognize transgender students’ preferred names on their student ID cards, university email addresses, and on class registers.

In France, legal name changes are often a long and complex process, which means many transgender students have a legal name which does not match their gender identity or outward appearance.

The decision comes a year after a student asked the faculty to do more to accommodate transgender students.

“I told them my story, my journey, and I mentioned the problems that trans students face at university,” the student, named only as Charly, told regional newspaper La Nouvelle République. “Uni is a turning point. You're starting your adult life, and it’s important to feel that your identity is being respected.”

Tours University is the first higher education institution to have introduced gender-neutral toilets in France, though they are already used in universities in other countries, including in several US states and in Tel Aviv.

So far, gender-neutral toilets have been installed in the medical faculty with more set to be introduced across the entire campus, though gendered toilets will remain available as well, the university said.

“Even if it only affects a single student, it’s important that they can pursue their studies in the best conditions; it’s a question of equal opportunity,” the university’s officer for diversity, equality, and disabilities, Concetta Pennuto, told Huffington Post France.

Pennuto said that students were currently involved in suggesting appropriate logos to denote the non-gendered toilets.

Transphobia, or harrassment of transgender people, has been recognized as a criminal offence in France since 2012. 


 

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