Ambulance chiefs trap defacer of unisex signs The Times 18.11.18

The original article is here.

The London Ambulance Service has called in a handwriting expert to trap NHS staff who scrawled on signs making lavatories, showers and changing rooms gender-neutral.

In addition, the service’s emergency operators have been told not to call people “sir” or “madam” and to refrain from using “Mr” or “Mrs” even if 999 callers request it. Internal forms now include the gender-neutral pronoun “Mx”.

The changes, aimed at helping transgender people, were revealed by Jules Lockett, head of emergency operations centre training at London Ambulance Service, and joint head of its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender network, at a conference in the capital.

Lockett said the service had faced down “bravado” to bring in gender-neutral lavatories, showers and changing rooms “across our stations”. She said: “We did get a lot of people trying to rip the signs down, so we just printed a lot off and were just going round and sticking them back on.”

Lockett said dissidents in ambulance crews had taken “a permanent marker into the toilet to make changes on the signs, et cetera, that we’ve put up . . . What people don’t realise is we’ve had one of our directors who has collected these signs, collected the handwriting and asked for a professional analyst to compare that handwriting with the handwriting they used on their patient report forms, and we have found [a] person.” Lockett insisted staff had no right to be concerned about the changes: “It doesn’t matter. If I walk into an ambulance station . . . there will be people getting changed. Whether they are male or female, it doesn’t matter.”

Nicola Williams, of the feminist group Fair Play for Women, said: “Whether women have to share their private spaces with men may not matter to Jules Lockett, but it does matter a great deal to other women, including clearly to many of her own staff. This is a classic example of someone trampling on women’s rights and safety and congratulating herself for it.”

Lockett also told the conference that members of the public who called 999 would “quite often ask you to refer to them as Mr or Mrs. We now train people [call handling staff] to . . . try and steer away from [that].”

She said it was “old-fashioned customer service to say sir or madam, and we’re looking at how we can change that and give our staff some different words to use”. She admitted, however, that it was sometimes necessary to establish someone’s birth gender because it affected the medical treatment they needed.

The conference was organised by the transgender lobby group Gendered Intelligence (GI). In another session, Jezza Donovan, a GI member, criticised clothes shops as “incredibly gendered spaces”.

The London Ambulance Service said: “There have been a small number of occasions where discriminatory graffiti has been left. These incidents have been reported to managers and investigated.”