What do women do in toilets?
We menstruate in toilets and sometimes it hurts. We are surprised by the punctuation of our flow. We are shocked by our bodies’ ability to pass clots, grow lumps, and bumps, to create hormonal ache. We change pads, tampons and menstrual cups, press wads of paper into our underwear and hope it does not slip. We wash cups, skirts and trousers in overcrowded sinks and clean up stray drops of blood that scatter the floor. Sometimes there is lots of blood.
We defecate in toilets. Sometimes it smells, and sometimes it produces more noise than we would like. We squirm in embarrassment and wait until the last woman has left before emerging. Sometimes we spray a scent and line the bowl with paper hoping to avoid the plop that reminds us and everyone else that we are living, breathing animals. Sometimes we worry that old birthing scars will open. Sometimes we change ostomy bags.
We urinate in toilets. Sometimes we press the flush to disguise the noise of our stream. We change incontinence pads and wonder ‘is this getting worse?” . We scrutinise the colour and consistency, “is that blood?”, “is that normal?”, “Should I see a doctor?”
We suspect pregnancy in toilets or are reminded of infertility. When we do not bleed on cue we count days and question sexual acts that may have caused the delay; “Did he?” “Did I?” “Was I?” “Can I?”
We take tests in toilets, we secret tests in sleeves and the dark depths of bags and ponder why tests need to be so large and pockets so small. We stare in expectation at lines that may never appear. Sometimes lines appear.
We are pregnant in toilets. We squat over tiny jars to produce a specimen. We clean the floor and ponder how much easier a penis is to aim. We wash our hands, and the tub.
We are sick in toilets. We heave and contort, pant and vomit long past morning. Our friends stand outside our cubicle and say reassuringly “its a really good sign, it shows the baby is sticking!”. Sometimes the baby sticks.
We pass foetuses in toilets. We cry for children we will never know and experiences that we will never have. Sometimes we are relieved and we plan our freedom. Other times this is the hardest moment of our lives and we are in a toilet, and there is a stranger in the next cubicle.
We hurt in toilets, we cry from pain, grief, embarrassment and frustration and a million other reasons you will never know.
We talk in toilets and sometimes it is about you. We comfort friends, and share our concerns. We are psychiatrist, counsellor, life coach and confidante.
We hide in toilets. We ask “has he gone yet?” Or “did he see me?” We panic when sticking doors slow our escape and worry that our drinks have been drugged and our path will be blocked.
And sometimes we do all of the above with a small child or two by our side.
‘Gender-neutral’ toilets mean that both male and female bodied people can use the facilities. This Mixed-Sex approach puts the DESIRES of a tiny proportion of men over the NEEDS of all women and girls. We do not NEED men in our toilets and we do not WANT men in our toilets. Women and girls need single-sex spaces.