Old Vic sparks social media storm after making all toilets gender-neutral

2 October 2019, 21:58 | Updated: 2 October 2019, 22:24

The move has divided opinion on social media
The move has divided opinion on social media. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The Old Vic has sparked outrage on social media after replacing single-sex toilets with more inclusive bathrooms.

A major refurbishment at the centuries-old theatre has seen the replacement of male and female signs on toilet doors with a notice displaying either a cubicle or a urinal.

The theatre said the move was to allow “people to make their own decision about which loo is suitable for them" and has seen the number of toilet cubicles double.

Adding more toilets will also alleviate the industry-wide issue of longer queues for women, the Old Vic hopes.

In addition, two "roomier" toilets have been built for people who are pregnant or are accompanied by young children.

Speaking about the changes, Kate Varah, executive director at the Old Vic said: “We set out to make changes to The Old Vic that were reflective of the needs of today’s audiences and our local community.”

On Twitter, they said the changes were made after consulting with their patrons via post-show feedback.

The Old Vic tweeted: "Our loos now offer ‘self-selection’ rather than being labelled male or female. This takes a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, approach following advice from surveys conducted with focus groups.

"When you arrive in the theatre, you will see labels signposting which blocks contain cubicles and which contain urinals. We also have one specifically designed gender neutral loo.

"You can choose which one you want to use, rather than responding to a label placed on you which you may not identify with."

But the move has divided opinion on social media.

One Twitter user questioned whether "women" would genuinely wish to lose "all single-sex provision".

Another, Miranda Newsom, seemed to think women may get forced to use toilets with urinals because of how long queues get during intervals.

Alex C accused the Old Vic of caving in to people who are "woke" and suggested the move defies the 2010 Equality Act and UN guidelines.

However there was also praise directed at the Old Vic, with Miiko Toiviainen lauding the greater number of cubicles and the recognition of all genders, suggesting any fury would subside.

Amie Taylor celebrated the decision to become more inclusive, saying it "will make a huge difference" to people and is "just the way it should be".

Wagamama also announced plans to add gender-neutral bathroom facilities to its restaurants this year, converting shared spaces to private spaces in order to alleviate fears that the changes would “take spaces away from people”.

The change affected 40 per cent of its restaurants and aimed to offer “welcoming space regardless of gender or sexuality”.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan had previously stated that all new commercial developments in the capital would need to include all-gender bath rooms.

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