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It is not bigoted or transphobic to want girls to have their own bathrooms

At about two o’clock yesterday afternoon, RTE’s “liveline” programme erupted into one of those classic “liveline” debates that makes the country tick. The subject, of course, was the announcement by the Department of Education that from yesterday forth, all new toilets in Irish schools, as well as all renovations of existing toilets in Irish schools, will do away with the concept of gender-specific construction. No urinals for the boys anymore – just single cubicles, which will be come one, come all, whether you are boy, girl, or something in between, which apparently lots of people are, these days.

To be clear, this is not a law mandating that schools adopt a gender-neutral toilet system. It’s important to be clear about that, because some people will get confused. This is not a case of come September, Johnny and Mary sharing a bathroom. Whether Johnny and Mary ultimately do end up sharing a bathroom is, for now at least, still a matter for the schools.

What it is, though, is a mandate that all toilets must be constructed in a way that makes it perfectly feasible for Johnny and Mary to share a bathroom in the future. And let me assure you, my friends: That is not something they are doing on a whim, or for no reason.

For many people, the segregation of toilets is, of course, an emotive topic. My own memories, to be honest, of school toilets twenty years ago is that the locks on the cubicle doors rarely, if ever, were in an unbroken state, and toilet roll was rarer than gold-dust. Going for a pee at school was a perfectly un-traumatic experience, but woe betide the student who found themselves in need of the bathroom for the other reason.

Perhaps things have changed. If we are going down the road of gender-neutral bathrooms, then let us hope for everybody’s sake that more attention is paid to the locks on the doors than it was two decades ago.

But there is a more fundamental question about this, and here it is: Who decided this?

Ireland is, after all, a democracy. In a democracy, in theory, big changes to how we live our lives are debated and discussed in public, and voted on by the people’s representatives who, if they disapprove of the decisions, can eject the representatives and elect new ones. But where was the debate about this? There was no vote, or discussion, or question about this in the Dáil, after all (there would not have been time – the Dáil has only sat for three days this April). There was no discussion, or debate, in the media, before this decision was announced.

Indeed, the first most of us heard about it was when the decision was announced, as a fait accompli, yesterday afternoon.

This is, of course, no small administrative decision. It is a decision that is intended to pave the way for a fundamental alteration in the way Irish society has approached toilets and bathrooms and privacy for hundreds of years. Somewhere, in a small (or big) room somewhere, somebody has decided that gender neutral bathrooms are the future, without consulting the rest of us. We are getting to debate and discuss it only after the decision has already been made. Oh, and by the way if you object, you are some class of backwards bigot.

That is how we run this country now.

For generations, we have as a people recognised the importance of gendered public bathrooms. We’ve done so because the bathroom, in general, is a place where people are vulnerable, and want their privacy. Society has long recognised, too, that there is a small but dangerous percentage of men who seek access to women’s spaces for the purpose of committing sexual abuse, sexual violence, or simply gaining some sort of vicarious sexual thrill. Since we want to protect women from those men, we give them their own gender-specific space.

That was such instinctive common sense, for centuries, that most of us have never really had to even think about it and are unprepared for the argument when someone calls us a bigot for objecting to the proposed change. That, of course, is in part how the radical progressive left operates: They knock you off guard with a proposed change out of nowhere and declare that you are a bigot if you object. Most people, not wanting to be a bigot, simply stay quiet and have learned to keep their opinions to themselves.

But it is not bigoted to want girls to have their own bathrooms, and boys to have theirs. Yes, our homes have gender neutral toilets, but those are for the use of family members – people we should be able to trust implicitly. When we, and our children, are in a public place surrounded by strangers, we instinctively want to have somewhere safe to go, should we or they wish to use a bathroom. We recognise, instinctively, that there are potential threats to our safety. Having male and female bathrooms is a concession to two instinctive human instincts: The desire for privacy, and the desire for security. Just because somebody suddenly screams at you that those instincts are “transphobic”, that doesn’t make them right. It makes them a bully, and an unreasonable bully.

The country, unfortunately, is quite full of unreasonable bullies at the moment. It’s about time we started standing up to them, and demanding a say in decisions like this one.

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