Depending on where you’re located in the world, you may have noticed changes to the public washrooms in your community, or perhaps a lack there of. For me, I have noticed the limited facilities available to those who do not identify within the gender binary. It seems like a basic human necessity, so why does it cause such a debate? Maybe we should strip down to the facts and flush out the some of the common myths…
MYTH: Both genders using the same washroom? What about my safety as a woman?!
FACT: For one, is it the gendered sign on the washroom entrance that stops predators from entering? Probably not, so how would changing to gender neutral washrooms truly effect your safety? Secondly, for parent and child access, this change would be much more accommodating! Instead of searching for a family washroom or sending your child into the facility alone because your gender is different than theirs, now you can all go in. Finally, 70% of individuals who identify as gender non-conforming have reported some form of harrassement while accessing gendered washrooms, showing that something needs to change (1).
MYTH: Does that mean I have to use the same washroom as my co-workers of opposite gender?
FACT: First off, most buildings will have the option for gendered and non gendered washroom facilities, so its up to you what you feel most comfortable accessing. Something to remember though is gender neutral washrooms are set up to provide as much privacy as possible. Even more than our traditional stall bathrooms! The doors to individual stalls wouldn’t have the creepy space you can peak through between the hinges, and it would be lowered to the ground so no one could sneak under. Also, the urinals would still have privacy walls and would be located in a way that would allow distance between stalls and urinals.
MYTH: Building new washrooms is too expensive.
FACT: Nope, not really! I mean, the more extravagant the more expensive, sure. But depending on the current facilities, most buildings can accommodate this change with very little work. It may be as simple as changing the sign on the front of the door or adapting a single stall staff washroom to an all access facility. Just remember when making this change the accessibility should be considered. Its a huge step to offer gender neutral washrooms but if you only have one facility available on the whole campus, its not very inclusive!
MYTH: Why should those who don’t identify within the gender binary get special privileges like a private washroom?
FACT: I don’t know about you but having a place to relieve yourself isn’t a privilege, it’s a basic human right. Being potentially harassed, verbally abused, or denied access creates fear in using the facilities that can lead to health concerns such as dehydration, kidney failure, and urinary tract infections from not accessing the washroom. This is something that 54% of gender non-conforming people have reported (1). Also, 58% have reported that they have chosen not to participate in social activities due to the possibility of having to find a safe washroom (1). Having a facility that accommodates your needs isn’t a privilege, it’s a right.
These four myths seem to be the most common concerns when the discussion of gender-neutral washrooms arises. While I understand our society’s concern with change, of any kind, we need to consider the dangers of ignoring this need. We can’t let the violence and health concerns related to this issue increase. As well, not only would gender-neutral washrooms allow inclusion, safety, and a basic human right, it would begin to break down the gendering that society no longer needs. Why do we need to have clothing stores sectioned off by gender? Why do we have toys or activities that are gendered? These examples seem silly to have separated by gender, yet this is the society we live in! Next time your out and about take a look at other examples of unnecessary gendering in your community.
Resources: (1) http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2013/06/26/2216781/transgender-bathroom-study/