LONDON: The council in Brighton, England, is scrapping male and female public toilets in favour of "gender neutral" facilities so as not to "alienate the transgender community".
Facilities are to be built that are designed to be shared by adults and children and that do not feature the words "Men" or "Ladies" but instead will show symbols indicating they can be used by people of any sex or age.
The move was described as "political correctness gone barmy" by opponents, who warned that the vast majority of residents would prefer to use single-sex lavatories.
Brighton and Hove city council disclosed in emails that it wished to promote the term "gender neutral" and build facilities that were open to all, regardless of sex. It believes such facilities will be more accessible for those who do not identify with the "male-female binary".
Construction is due to begin this week on a block including four toilets and a cafe. Images depicting a man, a woman and a child will be fitted to the toilet doors.
Lynda Hyde, a Tory councillor in the Rottingdean ward, in which the new facility is being built, said: "This does seem to be a case of unnecessary bureaucracy and political correctness. Local residents, particularly women with children, would much prefer to use separate facilities as, apart from anything else, it is safer.
"If male/female symbols rather than text are used on the toilet then this avoids any confusion, so why is the council muddying the waters by insisting they are called 'gender neutral', which will mean nothing to most people?"
The £140,000 ($210,000) refurbishment of the toilets on Rottingdean seafront in Brighton is being funded jointly by Rottingdean parish council and the city council.
Mrs Hyde said she understood the city council planned to gradually phase out all male and female lavatories in order to cater for the minority group.
The move follows the establishment of a working group to examine issues faced by transgender residents in the city.
Last year, the Trans Equality Scrutiny Panel recommended that titles such as Mr, Mrs, Miss and Ms be banned so as not to offend the community and force them to "choose between genders".
Phelim MacCafferty, the Green Party deputy leader, backed the proposal saying: "Trans people aren't necessarily male or female and sometimes they don't want to be defined by their gender."
Trans people aren't necessarily male or female and sometimes they don't want to be defined by their gender.Phelim MacCafferty, Green Party
A city council spokesman said: "When producing signs for public toilets in the city we use standard images rather than words. This is beneficial to the many tourists from overseas visiting our city."
The lesbian, gay and transgender population in Brighton is estimated at about 40,000.
In a 2006 a survey of those groups, about 5 per cent of respondents identified themselves as transgender.