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A London theatre has sparked outrage after installing “hideous” and “uncomfortable” gender-neutral toilets. Lyric Hammersmith in West London’s “all-gender” lavatory has five urinals and one cubicle. It was introduced as part of the theatre’s “inclusivity and equality” strategy.
The feminist journalist and author Joan Smith was furious about the “lack of privacy for myself and any man who might come in” during a visit on Tuesday.
During the interval of an evening showing of Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Ms Smith went for a toilet break — but was in a rush and didn’t have time to find a usual gender-specific toilet.
Instead, she “reluctantly” used the theatre’s gender-neutral one behind the main bar.
She told the Telegraph: “I was confronted with five urinals which I had to pass to get to a single locking cubicle.
“I felt incredibly uncomfortable about the lack of privacy for myself and any man who might come in.
“Indeed, a man entered as I was about to leave, looked very embarrassed and left without using the urinals.
“I do not wish to see a man’s penis in a public place and I doubt whether many men want to expose themselves in this way.”
Ms Smith wrote to the theatre and the MP Andy Slaughter. She argued, “there are plenty of religious women who can’t be in a private space with men”.
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Trina Budge, Director of women’s rights group For Women Scotland, told Express.co.uk: “I can’t imagine many women, or indeed men, would be comfortable using mixed-sex toilets with open urinals and certainly no mother would risk letting her daughter go off to such toilets by herself.
“If these facilities passed building standards regulations then it’s beyond comprehension.
“Hideous, undignified and a safeguarding nightmare. Hopefully, common sense will prevail sooner rather than later with separate facilities reinstated as soon as possible.”
On Twitter, Ms Smith shared pictures of the toilet door which said “Loos – all genders welcome”.
The door showed a picture of urinals next to a “x5” and a toilet seat with a “x1” next to it.
One user, @MellieAdamson wrote: For goodness’ sake, @LyricHammer, women don’t use urinals. Only one woman can use this facility at a time. Six men can use this room. How is that not discrimination against women?
A spokesman for the Lyric Hammersmith said: “The Lyric Hammersmith Theatre is inclusive and welcoming to all. We provide a range of lavatory facilities to meet the needs of all the individuals who use our building.
“These include gender specific, all gender, private accessible and changing places facilities. Our all-gender toilets were introduced in 2018 as part of our strategy for inclusivity and equality.”
Last year, the equalities minister Kemi Badenoch announced all new public buildings should have separate male and female lavatories.
In a press release at the time, ministers said the gender-neutral toilets pose “raised safety concerns from women who feel they are losing privacy and being unfairly disadvantaged”.
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