Gender Neutral Changing Rooms Do Not Mean Equality For All

Gender Neutral Changing Rooms Do Not Mean Equality For All

I’ll warn you, this blog comes with a big fat RANT WARNING!  I am annoyed and feel the need to get this off my chest!  I’ll warn you now, my views may not be very PC but to be honest I’m past the point of caring!

This morning on Good Morning Britain they were discussing Topshop’s decision to introduce ‘gender neutral’ changing rooms in all their stores across the country. They ran a poll to see what people thought and while I agree with the results, I feel like the media are missing the bigger picture here.

Apparently there is a ‘huge’ need for gender neutral changing rooms because that’s the only way to be fully inclusive.  The people I saw GMB interview were all for it and said that the introduction of gender neutral changing rooms is a step in the right direction to equality.

Well, let me tell you, no amount of transgender changing rooms is going to make Topshop or any other clothing store inclusive and welcoming to everyone and it certainly does not give equal access to all customers.

The whole ‘transgender agenda’ seems to be being disproportionately reported in mainstream media at the moment, which is great for that community as it is clearly making a difference and pushing their needs to the forefront of peoples minds so that changes are made.  BUT… why is the same attention not being awarded to other minorities?

Why are we not seeing polls on GMB asking whether national retailers should have changing rooms which are suitable for disabled people?  Why are there no wheelchair users in the debates showing there is a far more important side to this story?  A side where disabled people cannot shop at all, and not just because they don’t feel welcome or comfortable in a changing room.

Gender Neutral Changing Rooms Do Not Mean Equality For All.

According to the BBC, 1% of the UK population is transgender, however 19% are disabled so why are they not being represented in the media?  Has the transgender community just got a really good PR team?

The reason I am so outraged by this whole debate and these changes is because I cannot understand why people are so engaged in this issue but are not outraged that wheelchair users still can’t even get into a shop such as Hollister or Superdry because they don’t make sure there is space between the clothes for someone to get around the store with a wheelchair?

We’ve seen headlines about transgender people who feel discriminated against because they don’t feel comfortable using gender assigned toilets but (and this may controversial) being transgender means you still have a choice as to which changing room or toilet you use, being disabled you don’t have that luxury.  So, where are the national headlines about disabled people not being able to use a toilet at all?

I can’t help but feel like retailers such as Topshop are using this debate to get more publicity, rather than to make useful and needed changes which really would help people to shop with them.  Today Topshop has had a LOT of free publicity (and here I am giving them some more) whilst still not being inclusive to all possible customers.

Disability is the biggest minority group, one which any of us could join at any point in our lives. Yet it is the last to be discussed in our national media, usually only ever reported on in times when we need an inspirational story to lift our moods.  But disability affects so many of us, either directly, or (in my case) indirectly and has a massive impact on our lives.

I feel as though the whole time stories like this are being highlighted in the media, we are giving a false impression that we are achieving equality.  Joe Public thinks changes like this mean everyone can visit but unless stores are making much bigger changes, equality for disabled people is still a long way off.

I asked some other bloggers on their views as I wondered if I was the only one who was rather annoyed at this…

“Not to sound harsh but being transgender is a choice and with that choice comes consequences – one of them being that they need to choose the most appropriate changing room depending on the stage at which they are at. Disability is not a choice and yet is not catered for anywhere near enough. I think this is more of a publicity stunt to raise Topshops media presence rather than a genuine response to anyone’s needs. No one wins here”

“I haven’t seen the story, but if they want to improve equality then they need to think of ALL of their customer. An inclusive gender neutral and accessible changing room would cater for a far wider customer base (LGBT community, disabled customers, parents with a disabled child, families & friends of mixed gender) and not continue to exclude anyone!”

“I have no problem with making changes which are beneficial for transpeople but let’s be honest Topshop aren’t doing it because they really care, it’s cheap and it’s good publicity, easy win for Topshop. Severely disabled people are excluded from society because they aren’t seen as having money to spend so retailers think that it’s not worth spending the money or time making their stores truly accessible to them. It’s shortsighted and ignorant”

“Controversial but what if you are transgender AND disabled…because you know disabled people can choose too! So they can try on clothes for the opposite sex but can’t pee??”  Miriam

I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue, so please do leave me a comment.



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