A few points to start from.
- Public bathrooms are not the same as locker rooms. People don’t (usually) strip naked in public bathrooms. Ideally, they go in, relieve themselves in the relative privacy of a stall, and leave.
- Too many people (trans people, women, children, men, all kinds of people!) are the victims of attacks in public bathrooms.
There are plenty of public bathrooms that are single-user and still gender-segregated. It’s quiet silly. I – an agender person who usually passes as female – prefer using single-user men’s rooms because IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT THE SIGN SAYS. I will be the only person in that bathroom until I am done. While I’m there, the bathroom is for whatever gender person I happen to be.
(Ok, the only way in which is matters is that now I know they really don’t clean men’s bathrooms as often as they clean women’s bathrooms. Ugh.)
If only one person is in a bathroom at a time, the bathroom itself does not have a gender identity that needs protecting. Women can use the men’s single-user bathroom. Men can use the women’s. And people who are neither women nor men can use whichever the hell they want.
…but in that case, wouldn’t it make more sense to stop differentiating between genders for single-user bathrooms? Come on, save on signage AND get that stupid dress figurine and that ridiculous square dude off of every single wall ever. NOBODY ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE THAT ANYWAY. Besides, I hate dresses. I’m going in the bathroom for the people who wear pants. Those signs really drive me up the wall, because they’re so completely arbitrary, unnecessary, AND hurtful to people who don’t fit in simple gender boxes. So why enforce the unnecessary that is also discriminatory?
Single-user bathrooms, though, don’t seem to be the problem. Or they’re a pretty easily fixable problem: just change the signs. (Although I *would* be interested to learn if attacks happen in single-user bathrooms as much as they do in the bigger stall line-ups. My hunch is they don’t, but I could be wrong.)
The main problem seems to be multi-user bathrooms. So let’s talk about those.
I’ve been misgendered before in public bathrooms. Maybe you have too. Older women (usually) see my short hair (and miss my figure? I’ll take it!) and tell me I’m in the wrong place. I say I’m not and they realize what they’ve done and apologize profusely for their mistake. (Meanwhile, I’m just happy that for once, I came off as masculine enough to trip their boy-sensors.) That’s the extent of my unusual bathroom experiences. And even that is too much.
Isn’t the purpose of a bathroom… using the bathroom? What do we actually gain by separating everybody out by their biological sex, other than excessive lines for some women’s rooms, and a weird sense of who’s allowed somewhere and who isn’t?
I’ve thought about this a lot. It seems to me that we gain exactly nothing.
Think about it. What if families could go to the bathroom all together (instead of bringing their opposite-gender kids into the bathroom the adult with them uses, which happens all the time)? Seems pretty reasonable. What if groups of people out on the town could go to the bathroom in packs, and watch out for each other? Cool!
If we take away those weird gender divides that bathrooms have, it seems to me that we suddenly have safer bathrooms, because more people are in them. More people of all genders = less secluded = not a good environment for attacks – on anyone.
Now, I travel alone a good deal, and have for a while. So I know that going to the bathroom in a group doesn’t always work. (And my guess is that people who are alone in bathrooms are the most common victims of attacks, unless there’s a group of attackers involved.) There will probably always be times that people are alone and vulnerable in those bathrooms… unless…
This might be a little farfetched, but it might not: what if places that offer public restrooms also offer a security person (or two) to keep the people using those bathrooms safe?
I mean, I’d rather have some privacy in the bathroom, but I don’t think my privacy is more important than other people’s physical safety. And I’ve already given up a degree of privacy when I use public bathrooms.
So here’s my proposal: bathroom desegregation. Put stalls up around the urinals too, while we’re at it. Let go of the habit of splitting groups up by gender when they’re peeing behind closed doors. Create a shit-ton (ha, ha) of security jobs while we’re at it. Make sure that NOBODY in any bathroom is an appealing target for the sick, awful people who want to beat us up or rape us. And take away the target those stupid gender signs brand on trans people’s foreheads. Take away the social awkwardness that gender policing in bathrooms has given us. Everyone belongs in public bathrooms, because – as that lovely kids’ books says – everybody poops.
Public bathrooms are for everyone.
It would be great if they were safe for everyone, too.
PS – And we can totally come up with cooler signs for public bathrooms. I challenge you…