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?

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #gender-neutralbathrooms #men #opinion stories and more


  • tookietookie

    This doesn’t address the possibility of a man attacking a woman in a restroom. If they happened to be alone and with his muscle and weight advantage…things like that do happen. For that reason, I’m not sure it’s such a great idea.

  • Shungaboy

    The LGBT Center in NYC has all-gender restrooms as well as separate men’s and women’s restrooms.

  • Phantom

    I see the point, but who cares, there is much more important issue than worrying about bathroom

  • Marcus

    @tookietookie: A man can attack a woman in a public restroom now. There’s no forcefield stopping men from entering ladies’ rooms. People who are going to commit assault generally don’t follow rules telling them where they’re not meant to go.

  • Auntie Mame

    No. No. No. All the women with babies will bring them in the bathroom and I’ll have to hear those brats crying while I take a dump. No thanks.

  • tookietookie

    @Marcus: There is social prohibition though, and it would look out of the ordinary. This is arguing it should look ordinary. That is an important difference, which is pretty obvious. But keep being disingenuous.

  • Anne

    As a woman, I certainly do not want gender neutral bathrooms. I’m sorry if that makes me retro or conservative. Most women, would feel the same. Can’t we have a little space for ourselves? Is that too much to ask for?

  • Timmmeeeyyy

    There are already lots of gender-neutral bathrooms in the US. Think of all the small restaurants and coffee houses you’ve been to with a single restroom shared by everyone with no problems. In European airports I’ve often had female cleaners come in to clean the restrooms while I’m using it. No harm was done to anyone.

  • Xerxes

    A good boost to this would be if Starbucks did it. Their separate male and female restrooms are always single user, so no security issue as raised above. Also, isn’t it fairer to let people use the facilities in the order of appearing in line, without consideration of gender?

  • WillBFair

    This would be a strategic disaster. Trans people are like .00001% of the population, so changing the public restrooms would fail a cost benefit. And the idea is probably very unpopular, as trans people are unpopular. They already helped to destroy enda.
    They should be keeping a low profile while we work on public opinion, as we should be keeping a low profile during the election.
    I swear. This community lives in a fantasy world of self righteousness.

  • Zach

    @Xerxes: Good point. If I have to go and the “male” washroom at Starbucks (or anywhere really) is in use… I go into the “female” washroom. I have never understood the point of gender-specific single-occupant washrooms. And judging by how many women I see slipping into the “male” washroom when theirs is in use, I don’t think my approach is uncommon. Single-occupant washrooms should always be gender-neutral.

  • Zach

    @WillBFair: And you don’t? Jesus.

    Many spots in Europe have gender-neutral washrooms. The McDonalds at Versailles, for example, has one line for like 4 stalls and 2 urinals. One handwashing station. It’s a busy washroom! Everyone deals with it.

    Several train stations in Scandinavia have gender-neutral washrooms too – just areas with doors to stalls, and one section of urinals for the guys. I encountered this throughout Europe really. It isn’t the majority, but it occurs enough for this Canadian to have taken notice while travelling. People just dealt with it.

  • W.P.


    Because a small enough minority doesn’t deserve equal rights. Got it.

  • JAW

    As new buildings are being built and others remodeled… they have family restrooms and handicap rooms for all to use… and about 80% of those that use those rooms are not the people the original plan was for.

    I find it funny in areas where they have one seaters, (with no urinal in the mens room) that they will designate one for men and one for women… That is silly and could be fixed easily.

    If you check with any of the cleaning crews that have the glorious job of cleaning rest rooms… with out a doubt they will tell you that the women’s room is by far the dirtiest… That is one reason guys get pissed off (no pun intended) when women come into ours.

  • Peter the Piolet

    This whole equality thing is getting too far out of hand. Just keep the damn bathrooms the way they are.

  • Abby

    I see this as more of a human rights issue. Public restrooms are just that… PUBLIC. We need to get over our embarrassment over bodily functions and the anxiety that someone might hear or (horrors!) smell us.

    The argument that men can’t contain themselves in a shared space is a bit ludicrous to me. Do we really still think that way in 2012? The rest of the world doesn’t – unisex bathrooms have been the norm in Europe for some time now. For those of you still creeped out; I would argue that you should feel SAFER in a unisex bathroom. The possibility of other men entering at any moment would definitely make a predator think twice about messing with someone.

    Everyone deserves a safe place to use the bathroom. I remember the mean girls in high school that would take over the woman’s restrooms and mercilessly taunt any “lesser” girls who dared enter. That type of bullying would have been non-existent had those restrooms been a shared space with boys. I also remember how traumatized I was at 6 years old when a nasty old biddy screamed at me to get out of the women’s restroom –because my brand new pixie haircut apparently made me look like a boy. That was over 40 year ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I can’t even begin to understand the level of harassment gender non-conforming individuals experience.

    Current facilities would probably need a bit of modification – Say, floor to ceiling stall dividers. But this is a much more realistic and cost effective option than keeping existing spaces and adding a third unisex location.

  • mere

    Many of these comments fall into very predictable territory, where women are all damsels in distress who need protecting, and men are all potential rapists (completely ignoring the facts that women are far, far more likely to be sexually assaulted by someone they know). Both of those stereotypes are ridiculous, and insulting to men and women.

    Whether or not we go in this direction for bathrooms, the relaxing of the need to police gender in the bathroom is really the issue here, for me. If a person with a disability needs assistance from a person of another gender, they should both be able to enter a bathroom without anyone blinking an eye. If a parent wants to take their child of any age in the same bathroom as them, it should be just fine. Who gives a shit, pun intended?

    If someone masculine enters a women’s restroom, for the love of god, yes, this person did see the sign, and no that person does not need a reminder, a stare, a glare, or a discussion between you and your friends over the apparent gender quandary going on. After holding on for too long to avoid this very situation (even getting bladder infections to avoid jerks in bathrooms), that person just had to pee, and chose that bathroom as the–hopefully–most comfortable option. If a feminine person enters a men’s room, again, it is to pee, not have you question or threaten them.

    This isn’t just a trans issue–or a queer issue–c’mon people. Some transfolk fit in with societal expectations for the gender binary, and a helluva lot of cisgender folk do not. Life 101 here.

    Pee, wash your hands, move on. Keep your looks, comments and fists to yourself.

  • WillBFair

    @W.P.: Of course they deserve equal rights. But I can’t wave a magic wand and make it happen. But maybe you’ve never heard of the religious right, or the ‘independents’ who are manipulated in three seconds by any slogan or image our enemies present.
    And Zach is comparing this country to Scaninavia? Oh my.

  • Zach

    @WillBFair: Not comparing. Wishing that even the slightest amount of sense found in Scandinavia could be imported into the USA.

  • nikko

    What a stupid idea. Forget it. Too many dangers…

  • Mark Moscow

    Great idea!

  • Clockwork

    Trans activists will jump on the dumbest issues as examples and causes for rights expansion.
    Gender neutral bathrooms, Beauty pageants, Airport scanners.

    That’s why most of them are not taken particularly seriously.

  • Belize

    There are good points here. Personally, my only real issue with unisex bathrooms are the ones in country’s that are not substantially stable financially speaking. The tendency with such unisex bathrooms is that they would only have stalls (no urinals) because it’s more efficient and economically sound to construct them that way. The problem I have with this is that some men just don’t know when to lift the toilet seat and they end up peeing over the damn thing. I know it’s a bit moot but it’s still a hygiene issue.

    Also, yes JAYKAY, I know that you will comment on such an article since it would give you a chance to be moronically sexist while espousing your antiquated, unattractive, Ol’McDonald-had-a-farm macho crap. And since you are already predictable, your troll card has been virtually revoked. It’s time to get a new username, baby.

  • Just being real

    Gender neutral bathrooms are pointless, and they’re one reason why Trans people flipped out and made it so ENDA was NOT passed and bisexuals, gay men, and lesbians as well as Trans people would NOT be protected at their jobs or in the workplace, and there are still companies and states where if you’re LGB you can be fired.

  • stevoj

    i read up until the “And you know what, there’s nothing wrong with innocent inspection of a fellow fellow’s member…”

    that has to be one of the most perverted and ridiculous arguments toward the notion of gender neutral bathrooms

  • Farquart

    Are there any actual gay men at Queerty, or are you all “trans”?

  • Bob

    Sorry but I do not want to share a bathroom with women…plain and simple. They will hog the booths and men will have to use the exposed urinals.

  • nugoyxi

    I definitely think that there should be gender neutral bathrooms too.

    I want to only share bathrooms with real females, not males who are living as females. If you have a penis, you don’t belong in the women’s bathroom, sorry. I realize that transpeople can be attacked for going into their real gender’s bathrooms and that shouldn’t happen so this is a safe idea.

  • JayKay

    Yeah, no. I like being able to get into the bathroom, drain the dragon, and get out without having to wait in line for 45 minutes while a bunch of chicks discuss Twilight or their periods or whatever they talk about when eight of them use the bathroom together.

  • nugoyxi

    Yeah, now that I think about it, it would cost too much money. They just need to use the bathrooms of their real gender.

  • GreatGatsby2011

    @nugoyxi: So you need to genetically screen all your bathroom companions before you can comfortably move your bowels? That must be incredibly inconvenient.

  • nugoyxi

    It should be a crime for someone to go in the wrong bathroom (unless it’s a child)

  • nugoyxi

    To add to my comment, that’s the only way to make sure they don’t do it. I don’t think it should be so difficult to understand LOL.

  • JAW

    And what would the wrong bathroom be for a trans person… who is just begining to transition??
    If someone still male, but dressing as a female and passing to some, but not all… what would be the propper bathroom.. and why?

    How about someone Transiting from FtM… and they look really good… where do they go??

    You are sooo narrow minded… and perhaps just a jerk

  • ak

    As a trans person I believe that having at least a gender neutral bathroom (with or without gender separated bathrooms near it)would be terrific.

  • GreatGatsby2011

    @nugoyxi: So how would such a law be enforced? Would all women be forced to undergo genetic screening prior to being admitted to the ladies’ room? Or would a bloody tampon or flashing an unscarred vagina be sufficient? It wouldn’t be as simple as showing as showing ID since, in the state in which I reside, a transwoman would have an “F” on her ID. Would there be bathroom bouncers? Toilet TSA agents? Would masculine-looking women be subject to additional screening?

  • nugoyxi

    I would have no idea how they could enforce it but if someone is caught somehow, they should be punished that way people aren’t like “Oh there’s a law against it, but it’s not enforced.” Transpeople just need to realize they need to go in the correct bathrooms, that would be the easier solution.

    Masculine women shouldn’t be screened because they’re women, they have female DNA and vaginas and breasts.

  • GreatGatsby2011

    @nugoyxi: How would a transperson “get caught”? You seem to be able to tell at a glance whether a person is a genetic female vs a transfemale since you are uncomfortable when sharing a bathroom a transperson. So to tell us how you know when to feel uncomfortable.

  • nugoyxi

    Like I said, I’m not sure, but they just need to realize that they need to go in the correct bathrooms, it’s common sense. If you’re male, you go in the men’s room, if you’re female, you go in the women’s room.

    I’m uncomfortable with even the possibility of a man being in the same bathroom as me, that’s all I know.

  • GreatGatsby2011

    @nugoyxi: Well rest assured, most states only allow transwomen, not men, to use the women’s restroom.

  • nugoyxi

    It shouldn’t be allowed, women should use the women’s room, and men should use the men’s room. They can’t change their gender no matter how much they try.

  • nugoyxi

    Transwomen are men, transmen are women btw.

  • GreatGatsby2011

    Thankfully, the lawmakers of my great state do not share your narrow view of the human condition.

  • JAW

    @nugoyxi: So… what you are saying is… that a person that identifies as male, dresses as male… acts like a male… Has a full beard and looks sooo much like a male, that you do not have a clue he was born female. That person should use the Woman’s rest room… and you would feel very comfortable with them in the stall next to you and using the sink next ti you… Is that correct nug???

  • Hyhybt

    Whether the bathrooms are gender-neutral or not (but especially if they are, and I agree they ought to be): please, PLEASE design the stalls better. Some newer ones are particularly bad, built with nearly an inch gap between the stall wall and the post holding it up, and another between the post and the door. You see right in whether you want to or not. (Our local Outback is like that, for instance.)

    Make them like McDonald’s, with a real, floor-to-ceiling wall and a real (though cut off) door, and it won’t matter who is in there.

  • nugoyxi


    Women should be in the women’s room, and men in the men’s room like I said.

    That person is still a female. She still has female DNA and female body parts.

  • JAW


    interesting… but odd… I would a bit uncomfortable with someone in a nice dress… looks very fem in the mens room… but no issues with anyone that looks like a man.

  • Clockwork

    Good points, this individual is thinking creatively with problem solving in mind.

  • GreatGatsby2011

    @nugoyxi: You didn’t answer the question. So you’re saying that, if a person who looked, acted, and sounded like a man (in other words virtually indistinguishable from a genetic male witgout genetic screening) walked out of a stall in a women’s restroom you were occupying, you wouldn’t report it to the management? Or would you just use your super-vision to scope out his X chromosome? Wouldn’t having transmen use women’s restrooms open the door to genetic males to use the women’s restroom and leer? I mean how do you distinguish between a transman and and gentic man trying to enter a women’s restroom?

  • nugoyxi

    They should know better than to do that, that’s what I’m saying.

  • GreatGatsby2011

    @nugoyxi: Who should know better than to do what? I referenced several subjects in my comment, so you’ll need to be more specific with your prounouns.

  • nugoyxi

    They should know better than to go in the wrong bathroom. Women go in the women’s bathroom, men go in the men’s bathroom. If you have the DNA and genitals of a gender, you’re that gender.

  • GreatGatsby2011

    @nugoyxi: So as long as the transwoman has had gender reassignment surgery and now has the genitals of a woman, then they can use the ladies’ room?

  • nugoyxi

    If you change your genitals, you need mental help.

  • GreatGatsby2011

    @nugoyxi: Ohhhhhhhh…. and here I thought I was talking to a rational human being. You should have announced your bigotry at the very beginning of this conversation, then I wouldn’t have wasted my time.

  • Timmmeeeyyy

    Your understanding of sex and gender is childish and narrow, to say the least. I wonder how comfortable you would be to see this person walk into your restroom. By your definition, Buck Angel is a female and should therefore use the same restroom you use. The world does not divide up into the neat, limited little boxes that you would like it to. Nor do you get to tell people who and what they are.

    Approximately 160,000 people in the US were born Intersex, that is they have reproductive organs that are ambiguous, not completely male and not completely female. Which restroom should they use?

    Some cultures have the concept of a third sex that is both male and female, or neither male nor female. Examples are hijras of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, Fa’afafine of Polynesia, Waria of Indonesia, Ashtime of Southern Ethiopia, Mashoga of Kenya, Mangaiko of Congo, Muxe and Biaz’ah of Mexico, and Sworn virgins of the Balkans. There are others. Which restroom do these people use?

    By the way, what is the terrible thing that will happen if someone of another sex uses the same restroom as you?

  • nugoyxi


    Yes, she’s female.

    Intersex people should use the bathroom of whatever their DNA says.

    There’s no such thing as third sex, it’s completely made up, they need to use their real gender’s bathrooms.

    No matter what anybody says you can never change your gender. You will never have the correct body or DNA.

  • nugoyxi


    The guidelines are clear. WOMEN’S bathroom, MEN’s bathroom.

  • evji108

    How fun, now we can pee with our female relatives. Just what I want to do, listen to my grandmother take a piss. lovely.

  • Don

    I have nightmares there a women entering the men’s room while I’m at the urinal, also when I’m dressing or showering in the locker room. ONCE I let a female doctor examine me in the emergency room. I asked for a male and she used scare tactics to make me believe I did not have time to wait for one. She took advantage of my vulnerability, I had nightmares for several years. I want male only public restrooms. As for stalls, my wish would be, they would be completely sealed, private rooms. I don’t care if EVERYBODY poops— I don’t want to know about it or deal with the outflow of sounds and smells while I make pee pee!
    And excuse me Mr Author, it sounds to me like you may have a fetish (or #two). Not there’s anything wrong with that, I just do not want any part of it.

  • hp

    Considering the long lines that are in every public female bathroom you may want to be careful what you wish for. Women USE the bathroom as in they put on make up, spray hairspray, perfune & do enumerable other things including changing poopy diapers, bringing in all their kids, ignoring little billy who’s crying & kicking the stall of some other person & dealing with feminine products. Plus some women don’t like to sit on seats & always miss the seat & for women who do sit, now they have to worry about toilet seats left up if the guys don’t use the urinal. I guess it works in Europe–maybe they just have better manners & nannies.

  • Boy-only bathroom guy

    I’m sorry. Surely I’m not the only guy who’s noticed that bathrooms almost always smell funny after women have used them? That’s plenty of reason to keep them segregated, thanks.

  • GregR

    I don’t want no women in the men’s restroom. They take forever when they go and the author thinks it’s a good idea to have them invade the men’s room? No way. Gender neutral is a dumb idea. Men are men and women are women. As far as anybody who is confused or has had a sex change, just go wherever you feel you belong. I don’t care. But I don’t want to see a bunch of women in the men’s room.

  • Jerry6

    Any male who thinks genderless bathrooms are OK, has never been in a Female public bathroom. As a retired shopping center Manager who has been in Female Bathrooms all around the country, I can tell you that they are generally disgusting.

  • Hyhybt

    @Jerry6: So? So are male bathrooms, just in a different way. The ladies’ room is much more likely to have toilet paper strewn around, and perhaps even a tampon that didn’t make it to the trash can, while the mens’ room is more likely to have pee on the floor and seats and a sink clogged with towels. All things considered, I’d rather take the ladies’ room; its troubles are easier, both for a user trying not to touch or step in anything nasty, and for an employee, who can clear up its usual faults with only a broom and dustpan, both of which have nice, long handles.

  • JAW


    I totally agree with you… I was in management for a major department store… There were times that the cleaning crew would come out of the ladies room pissed off at the condition… women do not sit, They squat above the seat… no matter if they are doing #1 or 2… They try to flush their tampons down the toilet… causing them to back up… even though there were containers for them to use. makeup would be all over the counters, nail polish spilled staining the counter.

    Most men stand at the urinal… do their business wash hands (I HOPE) use the air dryer and leave.

    Next time you are at the mall, or other public restroom and you see the cleaning crew… ask them which are worse… You may be surprised.

  • Hyhybt

    @JAW: @JAW: I worked for McDonald’s for 14 years. The women’s room consistently looked worse but was easier to clean. That does not, of course, mean that the same must be true everywhere.

Comments are closed.