Gender-Neutral Bathroom Signs Spark Controversy

Male/female/transgender bathroom sign

A new breed of gender-neutral bathroom signage includes a new symbol, meant to represent transgendered persons (via

July 23, 2012 — While gender-neutral bathrooms are not a fresh idea, particularly in the case of single-use restrooms, one Nova Scotia health services provider’s use of a new gender-neutral symbol has garnered a great deal of attention and controversy. The sign has three symbols, one of a man, one of a woman, and then one that is a combination of the man and woman symbols. The signage was commissioned by transgender activists pushing for gender-neutral restrooms during a community consultation in April of this year.

While some argue that the transgender symbol is a step forward in the scope of affirmation of transgendered persons, others feel that adding this new gender does nothing to detract from gender disparity.  As opposed to being gender-neutral, they argue, the bathroom signage creates a third gender.

Funny sign from

Another take on the traditional gender-neutral bathroom signage, with the figures of a man and a woman separated by a vertical line (via

More common gender-neutral signage involves the symbol of a man and a woman with a vertical line in between them, which many claim gets the message across without the addition of a transgendered representative symbol. The new symbol, while meant to be welcoming to transgendered patrons, seemingly creates more distinctions. McGill University has employed this new series of trans-friendly signage for gender-neutral bathrooms, leaving many unsure of the universalization of this new graphic language.

Regardless of the symbol itself, the movement towards recognizing transgendered individuals has generally received a positive response. Gender-neutral bathrooms are becoming common across US and Canadian college campuses. However, this new symbol may not be the trademark of that shift in social recognition and cognizance.

– S. Walsh