OPINION: Why There Ought To Be Gender-Neutral Bathrooms Everywhere

Over at Washington State University Vancouver, an activist group has decided to host Gender-Neutral Bathroom Week. It got me to thinking, and I realized: Why don’t we have gender-neutral bathroom week every week, everywhere?

Here’s the plan, according to Janae Teal and Meredith Williams, leaders of “Gender Diversity WSU Vancouver”:

For one week, we are designating one set of bathrooms in seven buildings “gender neutral,” to raise awareness of students being harassed in bathrooms for not appearing stereotypically gendered. For that week, students, staff and faculty can use whichever bathroom they want, or can go to other gender-segregated bathrooms in the building.

Of course, they say, the issue has raised the predictable ire of some conservative groups on campus. But why?

The idea of bathrooms being segregated between genders makes sense on a very elementary, men-in-one-place, women-in-another level, but once you think it through, it’s kind of dumb. If you want privacy in a public bathroom, well, you’re not going to get it once there is a need for more than one stall. So let’s break down the different types of privacy “invasions” prudes have to “suffer” in public bathrooms.

When you have all stalls in a bathroom, everyone has their own space and their own privacy—nobody can see what the others are doing.

Now, I’ve heard of ladies who are so sensitive that they put on the water because they don’t like their ladyfriends to hear them drop a plunker. These girls need to get over themselves—pooping is natural, and it produces sounds. Learn to love your poops, and maybe someday you will be more fun in bed, too.

Then there’s urinals: obviously only dudes are going to use those, and, to be honest, I feel quite exposed at them. You can easily look over at other guys’ dicks at most urinals, as the plastic shields between them are usually non-existent or inadequate. And you know what, there’s nothing wrong with innocent inspection of a fellow fellow’s member, although I would say to keep it to a bare minimum. But for the more squeamish males among us, I would advocate for more complete urinal shields so that no lookie-loos can abuse their penis-peeking privileges.

Now, I’m not advocating for the conversion of all bathrooms into gender-neutral ones. Here are a few of the situations you encounter:

A place with two bathrooms, one for men and one for women. The line crops up at the women’s line while the men’s tends to move faster. Here, there is little room to squeeze in a gender-neutral bathroom. But just think about the spatial dynamics if the two bathrooms were just combined into one gender-neutral one, so sink-sharing was possible, and more stalls or urinals were installable. The ladies use the stalls, the men use the urinals, and the worst thing that could happen is a dude who needs to poop is in a stall next to a lady who’s doing her business. Who cares?

At a place with three or more bathrooms, you can, like the WSU Vancouver folks, keep one male-only, one female-only, and the others gender-neutral. I’m going to use the gender-neutral ones every time, because it feels liberating and post-modern, unless there’s a line there. Then this gay man will use the good ol’ little boy’s room.

And, yes, I realized I have not addressed the issue of trans people. They of course should have the right to use whichever bathroom they want, and the great thing about a gender-neutral bathroom is that it enlightens them of the need to choose.

All genders pee and poop. All clean their hands and check their hair in the mirror, and they all apply moisturizer and product. What’s the point of keeping them apart anymore? We’re all equal when it comes to relieving ourselves—wouldn’t it be a relief to not have to think about which bathroom you’re meant to enter?