Vision: toilet beyond the gender binary
The gender binary classification of male and female impacts us a lot. It describes the system in which a society splits its members into one of two sets of gender roles, gender identities and attributes based on reproductive organs. It forms the basis for how you are educated, what jobs you can do (or are expected to do), how you are expected to behave, what you are expected to wear, what your gender and gender presentation should be, and who you should be attracted/ to love/ to marry, etc.
This system probably forms an oppression and discrimination on everyone of us if we are perceived to be outside the binary. Many of us are constantly putting ourselves and others in gender boxes that we just don’t fit into, whether or not we identify as transgender.
For example, the following picture is a screenshot taken from the search result of “toilet sign” on thenounproject.com. Most of the signs reveal how culture wants your gender to look. Should we take this binary for granted? Imagine that you are a man not physically stronger than women. Imagine that you are a female student fighting for your right to wear pants to school. This is not to negate the specific discrimination that trans-identified people experience daily and systemically, but gender oppression affects everyone.
the search result of “toilet sign” on thenounproject.com
I hope that my design would contribute to establish more and more friendly spaces. By truly embracing transgender equality, I believe we can all begin to define what it means to be a man or a woman on our own terms and liberate ourselves from the gender oppression we impose on ourselves and each other.
Although Taiwan has been considered as one of the most progressive country in gender equality in Asia, still the ignorance, stereotypes and even discriminations exist in many form of everyday’s experience against the secual minorities. For instance, there is a lack of all-gender restroom in university campuses as well as public spaces.
In 2016, I was invited to develop the first visual identity system for all-gender restroom in Taiwan by the Campus Planning Office of National Taiwan University(NTU). Our All-gender Restroom Plan aims to offer safe and friendly spaces for toilet-using regardless the sexualities and gender identities of the users.
The School Affairs Council of NTU passed the rule for all gender restroom installation in mid 2015. NTU is the first university in Taiwan that expressly stipulates that each campus building must have at least one all gender restroom.
After a 2-year relentless effort by the campus planning committee and the student unions. The first restroom was opened at the student center in the end of 2016. More all gender restrooms have been installed or been being constructed in many buildings on the campus.
We finally established the first installation guide for all gender restroom in Taiwan, which demonstrates the detailed to be concerned in order to reach a balance between safety, privacy, openness, comfortableness, reasonable budget and spatial efficiency.
This guide is released into public domain for public sectors, private companies, non-profit organisations to utilise and modify free. We hope that we can maximise our contribution and enhance people’s well-being. The City of Taipei has used the installation guide as a reference for its future implementation of gender equality policies.
Participatory design process
Participatory Design started from the simple standpoint that those affected by a design should have a say in the design process.
— Bjögvinsson, Ehn, and Hillgren(2012)
The concept is about the democratic practice of design. All gender restroom, needless to say, is a type of public facility so that we have to make it public from its beginning. It is crucial for designers to involve the participation of the stakeholders, especially the underrepresented disadvantaged groups, in shaping the design outcome for public spaces.
I attended the executive team organised by the Campus Planning Office and Student Association of NTU. We held a series of speeches attended by over 400 audiences, 2 design workshops, and public hearing events before every restroom installation so as to collect the ideas about the design from the public. Moreover, the executive team is composed of heterogeneous members from different disciplines and backgrounds, which comprises the scholars specialising in gender issues, LGBTQIA rights activists, the student representatives, designers, architects and the manager of Campus Planning Office. In addtion, in general, the transgender and intersex people are not willing to show up in public events because of the pressure of coming-out, so we consulted some of them in person.
All Gender Restroom Identity Workshop, July, 2016
There are four primary elements in this design: Gender-neutral, Legibility, Emotionally Friendly, and Environmentally Adaptive.
We avoided utilising the elements consolidating gender stereotypes such as smoking pipe, high-heeled shoes, and a female figure wearing skirt. Instead, we chose toilet and tap as the elements for design in order to imply some of the main functions of a restroom.
We hope that the primary colors would also be gender-neutral and have the cognitive connection with restroom. An elegant purple, which is made by combining red and blue, is the best choice. The reason is that red and blue are the most common colors used on restroom gender sign of female and male respectively.
The logo of “All Gender Restroom/ 性別友善廁所” is designed in a sans typeface, which is more legible than most of sans-serif and other decorative alternatives. The designated font for the related applications is Noto Traditional Chinese developed by Google, which is an open-source font with a good legibility and thus could be used by every sector without any doubt of infringement.
The logo and the extensive applications are designed with rounded edges in order to give the audiences an emotionally friendly impression, which indicates that this design an anti-oppression practice.
We released the design into the public domain within the full guide book for everyone who needs it, so it is necessary to take the concept “design after design” into consideration. For example, what kind of surrounding will the all gender restroom be installed with? It is impossible for us to know. Therefore, the best strategy is to make the design detailed but minimalist. It will maximise its adaptiveness.
The full guidelines and the original files was released in 2018.
- The guidelines released by National Taiwan University (in Mandarin)
- Media exposure of the work: The New Lens and Womany (both are in Mandarin).
Originally published at https://yentsenliu.com/all-gender-restroom.