Student campaigner demands Kingston University to better accommodate transgender and gender non-conforming students, despite the opening of new gender-neutral toilets at Knights Park Campus.
Abigail Grant, Kingston student and Director to the Section Board of Amnesty International UK, feels that nothing has changed with the addition of these new toilets, and more needs to be done.
Grant said: “Kingston University needs to do a lot more to increase not only the number of gender-neutral toilets that are on campuses but also the visibility and the cleanliness of them.”
Knights Park campus unveiled a total of 16 cubicles on the ground floor of the new extension building last weekend, and a further five will be added into the Town House building when it opens in January next year.
The facility features a larger space, teal and white coloured walls, a large mirror with a sink, and multiple disability toilets with inbuilt washing facilities.
It has been two years since the initial trial run of gender-neutral toilets started at Penrhyn Road Campus and Hind Court, and Grant finds the additions long overdue.
“The ones in Penrhyn are a disgrace and is a sad metaphor for how the University thinks of their LGBT+ students. They are hidden away in the library without any appropriate signage during open days or freshers week. When I asked many student ambassadors about gender-neutral toilets, the majority did not know where they were,” Grant said.
Grant submitted a petition last January to the Student Union demanding that every university building should have at least one gender-neutral toilet available.
The 22-year-old says the additional and visible toilets would significantly improve equality, diversity and inclusivity (EDI), and “more importantly it is about accessibility and making sure our fellow students feel comfortable while they study and should not be in fear of being verbally or physically abused for having to choose a bathroom.”
The trial run of the gender-neutral toilets launched in 2017, instigated by the University’s network of equality, diversity and inclusion champions in collaboration with the Union of Kingston Students, the LGBT+ Society and the Estates team.
Since their implementation, the Penrhyn Road gender-neutral toilets were met with some negative responses over hygiene issues, as well as transphobic comments left on the Student Unions Facebook page.
A spokesperson for the University said that Kingston is committed to providing an inclusive environment for all its students, staff and visitors: “Following positive feedback from students and staff, plans were put in place to develop other similar facilities around the University.”