Servicing Utopia

A Note on Language and Glossary of Terms

Language and the terms we use are never perfect and always changing.

Sometimes we may not discuss an important issue, because we are worried about our choice of language. This is a shame, because it may mean that topics which need to be addressed are being overlooked. On the other hand, the words we choose to use are important and political – they often reflect and feed into wider issues of power, structural inequalities and oppression.

Throughout this project the Around the Toilet team has tried to use the preferred terms of the group which are being referred to. The glossary of terms defines some of the words that you may come across when doing toilet activism.

We appreciate, however, that preferred terminology is always changing and different people have different opinions on what is best. This may quickly become out of date, but this is where we are in 2016!

Access and Accessibility
Often when people are talking about 'accessibility' they are talking about whether or not disabled people can 'access' something (e.g. a building). However, in reality we all need 'access' to things. Disabled people's access (or lack of access) is often most visible because they are consistently denied access to spaces (see also Social Model of Disability and Reasonable Adjustments).

Accessible Toilet
The aim of the Around the Toilet project is to think about what an accessible toilet looks like. We've found that it's complicated! However, when people refer to the accessible toilet, they are often talking about a toilet designated for the use of disabled people. We are questioning this - thinking more broadly about what makes a toilet accessible for a range of different people.

Someone who does not experience sexual desire. There is a lot of diversity among asexual people; asexual people may feel different levels of interest in relationships, attraction, and arousal, and may still identify with a particular orientation.<>

Assigned male/female at birth
At birth, our bodies are typically assigned a label of 'male' or 'female' by medical professionals. This is primarily based upon the appearance of external genitals (see sex), but may also include gonads, chromosomes, and hormones. We may not later agree with this assignment (see trans). The sex binary is also understood to exclude a variety of body types, such as intersex people.

Cis man
A man whose current gender identity matches the gender that they were assigned at birth.

Cis or cisgender
Somebody who identifies as the gender that they were assigned at birth (i.e. somebody who is not trans).

Cis woman
A woman whose current gender identity matches the gender that they were assigned at birth.

The word disabled is used in different ways. It may refer to something that is perceived to be 'wrong' or 'different' in terms of somebody's body or mind (and usually has a medical diagnosis attached to it). In Around the Toilet, however, we are are using disabled in a political, 'social model' sense, to talk about people with impairments who are disabled by society. This includes people who have visible and invisible physical impairments, people that identify as neurodiverse, those with labels of learning difficulty/disability and so on.

Disabled person
Using disabled person (rather than person with disabilities) is a political choice that we made in Around the Toilet. We are using 'disabled person' to mean a person with an impairment that is disabled by society (see Social Model of Disability).

Disabled Toilet
This is a term sometimes used instead of the 'accessible toilet', referring to the toilet for disabled people.

Gender binary
The 'gender binary' refers to an assumption that there are only two genders ('man' and 'woman') which are polar opposites. This is often reflected on the signs that are put on toilet doors. In reality, there are more than just two genders. The assumption that everyone identifies as either 'man' or  'woman' excludes people who identify outside of these terms, such as some genderqueer and non-binary people. The reliance on a gender binary and its relation to sexed understandings of 'male' and 'female' also means that it can be problematic for intersex people. The assumption that one's gender will remain the same as the gender that they are assigned at birth is also part of the gender binary, leading to trans people being seen as 'different' or 'Other'.

Gender binary toilet
A toilet which is assigned as either 'male' or 'female'.

Gender neutral toilet
A toilet which does not assign a gender. We use gender neutral instead of 'uni-sex' as the term 'uni-sex' implies that there are only two genders.

Genderqueer refers to somebody who doesn't identify within the gender binary. They may identify as neither, both, or a combination of 'male' and 'female'. Gender identity may also change from day-to-day, or over time. Like 'queer', 'genderqueer' is often also a politicised term which is used to highlight the limits of the gender binary.

Gender Variant
A person who does not identify within the gender binary.

A worldview or ideology which promotes heterosexuality as the 'normal' or preferred sexual orientation above others.

A person who is attracted to somebody of the 'opposite' gender (also known as 'straight').

A person who is attracted to somebody of the same gender (e.g. a gay or lesbian person). Homosexual is a scientific/medicalised term that has a clinical history of being used to categorise people (especially gay men) as different to the expectation of heterosexuality (see also heteronormativity).

Impairment refers to a perceived 'difference' or 'abnormality' in relation to a person's body or mind. Often this is based on medical diagnosis. The word 'perceived' is important here and we should question what counts as a 'difference' or 'abnormality', concepts which can change over time and between cultures. We should also ask why some bodies and minds are valued over others (leading to the devaluing of disabled people). We are using impairment in its social model sense here. Its meaning is different to that of 'disability'.

Intersex describes the situation when a person's physical make-up doesn't fit into medical sexed understandings of either 'male' or 'female'. Just like anyone else, an intersex person can have any gender or sexual orientation.

An acronym standing for lesbian, gay and bisexual. We have included this here without the 'T' (standing for 'trans') of LGBT, to highlight that sometimes when LGBT is being discussed , the 'T' is included in the acronym but trans issues are not meaningfully discussed.  

An acronym standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. You may see LGBT being used with a * or + on the end which represents the fact that not all identities outside of heteronormativity come under LGBT (see LGBTQI*).

An extension of the LGBT acronym that you may sometimes see being used. The 'Q' sometimes stands for 'queer' or 'questioning'. The 'I' stands for intersex. You may also see an 'A' on the end at times, standing for 'asexual'.

Somebody who doesn't identify within the gender binary.

Person with a disability
This is what is sometimes known as 'person first' language. It is often used in writing from North America. The argument for this use of language (as opposed to saying 'disabled person'), is that the 'person' should be put before the 'disability'. Different people have different perspectives about whether it is better to use 'person with a disability' or 'disabled person'. In this project, we have made a political choice to use 'disabled person' (see social model of disability), but choosing to use person with a disability can too be political.

Preferred pronouns
The gender (or non-gender) pronoun a person prefers to use about themselves (e.g. she/her, they/them, her/his, zie/zir). Asking what pronouns a person uses is better than guessing or making an assumption.

Although 'queer' is a term that you may recognise as being used as a term of abuse, it has also been reclaimed by those identifying outside of heteronormativity. It is an umbrella term to represent people that identify outside of normative ideas of gender and sexuality (see gender binary). It is also used to represent a political position which opposes the assumptions and dominance of heteronormativity.

Reasonable Adjustment
Reasonable adjustment is a term used in the UK Equality Act 2010. It refers to a change in the workplace that an employer or institution could make to accommodate a disabled person. Although adjustments should be made to accommodate a range of different people's requirements, this project has been thinking beyond 'reasonable adjustments' by considering access as something beyond simply making changes on a case-by-case basis for (individual) disabled people. Reasonable adjustments is a term that could be criticised for implying that if some adjustments aren't deemed 'reasonable' then neither are the people that request them.

Sex (and gender)
'Sex' is often understood to be a person's biological/physical makeup which defines them as either 'male', 'female' or 'intersex' (with intersex wrongly and harmfully considered to be a 'rare abnormality'). Gender is understood as socially imposed roles, expectations and behaviours that are considered to be 'masculine' or 'feminine' (so 'sex' is biological and 'gender' is societal). However, this has been contested as people have argued that 'sex' itself is also socially constructed and more complicated that just being  'male' or  'female'.   

Social Model of Disability
The social model of disability was a political tool developed by disabled people in a group called The Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation in Britain in the 1970s. The social model of disability separates 'impairment' from 'disability' to argue that it is society that disables people with an impairment. Disability therefore refers to societal oppression, and impairment refers to a perceived 'difference' or 'abnormality' to a person's body or mind. The social model highlights how disabled people are a group oppressed by societal imposition of attitudinal, cultural, and structural barriers.

Trans man
A man who wasn't assigned male at birth.

Trans woman
A woman who wasn't assigned female at birth.

Trans, trans* or transgender
Trans or transgender refers to people who don't identify with the gender that they were assigned at birth. It includes transsexual, some non-binary and genderqueer people, and those that identify as anywhere on the trans spectrum. Sometimes the * is used to signify that trans is an umbrella term. However, there are different views as to the use of the *.