Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

March 11, 2016

Ay what’s good every­one. It’s been a hot minute since an update but we’re back. You know when you keep accu­mu­lat­ing baskets but the amount of eggs you have stays the same? That’s sort of what’s been happen­ing. Some­times you have to ask your­self why you have forty baskets to carry your one carton of eggs around. Like are you claim­ing all these baskets as yours because you need all of them, or do you just want to let the world know how many baskets you have? Are all these baskets making you happy or is the adding of new baskets to your collec­tion making you happy. Some­times you gotta objec­tively look at your­self and make that call with­out beat­ing around the bush. Are all these extra baskets getting in the way of taking care of culti­vat­ing your eggs? Then throw away/re­cy­cle/­com­post those moth­ers because you don’t have time for extra nonsense baskets crack­ing your eggs and all that. So anyway that’s where I’ve been.

UW is in the midst of a para­digm shift. In an effort to make campus more gender-in­clu­sive, the homies that run the school decided to make more gender-neu­tral bath­rooms. A few of these existed prior to this year but they appear to be a little more common than they were a couple years ago.

This is neither good nor bad. People that are uncom­fort­able with partic­i­pat­ing in the gender-bi­nary restroom system should have a place to use the bath­room in public and semi­-pub­lic places with­out moms from mid-west­ern suburbs who voted for Michele Bach­mann in the 2012 GOP primaries complain­ing like “How am I going to explain to my chil­dren how a man dressed like a woman is allowed to use the women’s restroom because they feel like it?” ad nause­am. At the same time, these one-stal­l-per-room config­u­ra­tions are a more inef­fi­cient use of space if look­ing to accom­mo­date a large group of people. Like virtu­ally every­thing in the universe, there’s trade-offs, but I’m gener­ally okay with putting up with the person­ally incon­ve­nienc­ing aspects of things if it bene­fits a marginal­ized demo­graphic minor­ity that’s had to deal with stupid petty bull­shit since basi­cally forever, as long as their expe­ri­enc­ing some­thing does­n’t compro­mise my expe­ri­ence of the same thing.

All this being said, I think this trend of making single-oc­cu­pant gender-neu­tral bath­rooms (SOGN­B’s) will continue to increase in popu­lar­ity so the rest of y’all are going to have to deal with how to use them correct­ly, since a disturbingly large amount of UW students don’t have a clue how to conduct them­selves in this type of envi­ron­ment. And this isn’t even from a being-in­sen­si­tive-to-tran­s-peo­ple perspec­tive. I don’t think anybody at UW is really outraged about the general exis­tence of gender ambigu­ous people on campus and their conduct within restrooms. This all virtu­ally stems from people phys­i­cally being unable to indi­cate that a SOGNB is occu­pied or not. People regu­larly fail to lock the door behind them when they occupy a SOGNB, and I regu­larly run into these people and in turn regu­larly expe­ri­ence completely avoid­able emotional trauma as I walk in to the sound of girls peeing or some­one saying “Umm, there’s some­one in here…”

If you choose to use a SOGNB for what­ever reason, you need to lock the door behind you. I’ll repeat for effect: if you choose to use a SOGNB for what­ever reason, you need to lock the door behind you. If you do not, you are not smart. The oppo­site of smart, in fact. Dumb, even. You are dumb if you do not lock the door behind you when you use a SOGNB.

It’s not cool to break anyone’s sense of privacy in a desig­nated private area within a public place. But this isn’t the fault of the person walk­ing in on some­one because it’s not their respon­si­bil­ity to indi­cate the occu­pancy status of a private room they’re about to use, since they’re, you know, not using it yet. It’s the user’s fault for mislead­ing the unin­ten­tional intruder to invite his/her use. You should­n’t subject people to a false sense of secu­ri­ty, partic­u­larly if these SOGN­B’s have a stall built within them. You can dras­ti­cally reduce the amount of unwanted people that want to enter rooms you occupy by lock­ing the door behind you.

It does­n’t matter that you were around when the SOGNB used to be a women’s room or men’s room or that there’s a stall within it. It does­n’t matter if you think either party is over­re­act­ing. This whole matter is a cour­tesy thing but also a safety thing. What if a creep­ster catches you peeing and tries to fondle you? I don’t think this has happened yet (San Fran has a lot of public SOGN­B’s and there’s been no reported asaults, per Google), but you invite the possi­bil­ity of it when you shit in private, unlocked rooms. To say that this point is irrel­e­vant because perceived dangers of public restrooms still exist is moot. First off, it’s against the law for the oppo­site sex to enter a public bath­room; second, these bath­rooms only have locks for the toilet stalls, if any; and third, these kinds of restrooms are meant to be acces­si­ble to anyone so putting a lock on the entire thing defeats the purpose of even having one, so if you’re against SOGN­B’s for a safety reasons you might as well advo­cate against all public restrooms for all their inherent dangers.

It does­n’t matter that it’s geared for the general public to use. SOGN­B’s entire reason for exist­ing is so that people that are in a public place that have to go to the bath­room that don’t want to be subjected to using a public restroom precisely so that they don’t have to be subjected to that. You break the sanc­tity of that use when you mess up and forget to lock it. If you’re making noise about people “get­ting what they ask for” because SOGN­B’s are acces­si­ble to the public and some­one walks in on them, go shit in a public restroom and leave SOGNB users alone forever.

I think part of the prob­lem is that instead of build­ing new SOGN­B’s within exist­ing build­ings, we’re just retro­fitting bath­rooms that used to be just for one gender. So instead of think­ing “Yo this is a radi­cal new bath­room that’s only designed for one person I should lock the door because it would be mad awkward if some­one walked in on me de-Chipotle­ing myself,” people are more inclined to think, “Wow this is just the same bath­room, it even has all the stalls and every­thing, am I even sure this is a SOGN­B?” So people in charge of the bath­room gender desig­na­tion portion of build­ing design need to make its intent really clear, and people retro­fitting exist­ing bath­rooms need to do some­thing like knock­ing all the stall walls down to get rid of all smaller private spaces within this space already desig­nated as private.

This is not a hard concept to wrap one’s head around. Lock the door when you use a single-oc­cu­pant gender-neutral bathroom.



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