All day, every day, I hear toilet stories.
Women not wanting to ever use a public toilet, children refusing to actually go to the toilet through the day because the toilets are disgusting, (dark, dripping taps, wet floors, spider webs, hard toilet paper, no toilet paper, no soap, the list goes on). But I was astounded and amazed with the news yesterday that a new Queensland Government initiative will be Unisex toilets at newly built schools. The fear that boys will be in the toilets ‘listening’ to what the girls will be doing in the toilet stall next door will be worrying and off-putting for the girls and some will defer and hold on to extreme lengths rather than risk that thought of being heard to either urinate or pass wind. I see a number of children who have continence issues (both bladder and bowel) who have to use the toilet to deal with that incontinence and that would be beyond embarrassing to do that with someone from the opposite sex watching.
Worse still, many 10 and 11-year-old girls are getting their periods and I can’t imagine how awful that would be to have to go into the toilets with boys standing around washing their hands and talking, with a girl attempting to change their pad or tampon. I understand the reason the need for this change in direction is because of issues with trans-gender children being able to access an appropriate toilet, but I feel there would be a way to assist those children in a sensitive way on an individual basis at each school, rather than create a potential catastrophe with both girls and boys feeling anxious about using mixed toilets at school. As a physiotherapist who treats bladder and bowel issues in women, men and children every day, I can assure you many of our adult problems commence in childhood with bad habits, anxieties and myths perpetuated from generation to generation. But I never thought I’d have to problem-solve how to get around mixed toilets…….It just won’t work and we shouldn’t have to make it work!
I would hope there has been adequate consultation with the appropriate health and teaching professionals when considering a decision such as this. And I really hope that this decision wasn’t driven by any financial rationalism.