A Call for Gender-Neutral Restrooms

I’ve been thinking a lot of restrooms lately — public restrooms, in particular. It’s such a strange topic: it’s completely innocuous to some, yet it’s absolutely a source of anxiety and tension for others. For me, it’s definitely the latter.

There are so many reasons why restrooms are so stressful for a lot of trans folk and gender-nonconforming people, but I’m not trying to speak for anyone other than myself. Personally, it’s not as though there’s a particular gender-specific restroom that I want to use. I realize that for many people, using a particular public restroom is hugely important — using the “women’s” room or the “men’s” room is essential — but that’s not the case for me.

I don’t generally have too many problems from other people when I use public restrooms. I’ve been approached by someone who thought I was in the wrong restroom; I’ve been handed the key to the men’s room when I had thought I was presenting as a woman (and I was with people who only knew me as a woman) — but I’ve never had any real confrontations. And since there are so many people who face harassment and violence every time they try to use a public restroom, I recognize that I’m lucky. Knowing what I could be facing, knowing how much worse it could be, puts my problems into perspective. Still, using a restroom shouldn’t be a source of anxiety for anyone, no matter who small the problem. We all deserve to use public restrooms safely, without fear.

Gender-specific restrooms really stress me out because they force me to pick one side of the binary or the other. And because it seems safer — by which I mean less likely to get me in trouble — I typically choose the women’s room. And that, in turn, messes with my head because I am not a woman. I don’t want to be a woman. And choosing to identify myself as a woman, even for something as brief a trip to the restroom, is really upsetting. I feel this sense of embarrassment, almost bordering on shame, as I push open the door, hoping — praying — that no one will see me so that I pretend it never happened.

I would love it if there were more gender-neutral restrooms. Gender-specific restrooms — and the policing that goes on with them — cause so much harm to so many people. And it’s so unnecessary. What’s the big problem with allowing people to use the restrooms they wish to use? I don’t understand. Especially with single-stall/single-occupancy restrooms — I just don’t get the fuss. They lock; there’s only one person allowed in at a time. What is the point of separating them by gender?

Having the option of a gender-neutral restroom would eliminate that dread of deciding which to choose. It would diminish the feeling of self-loathing that comes with choosing the women’s restroom. It would lessen the fear that maybe, just maybe, today will be the day that someone takes exception to the restroom I choose — I know that others have been assaulted or arrested just for using the restroom, and I can’t quite shake the fear that someday it will happen to me.

We deserve safe restrooms, and we deserve the right to use the restrooms of our choice. Who’s with me?

From the Sylvia Rivera Law Project:

Toilet Training – “The video addresses the persistent discrimination, harassment, and violence that people who transgress gender norms face in gender segregated bathrooms.”

Talking Points about Gender-Segregated Facilities

Sample Letter for Non-Gendered Bathroom Organizing (1)

Sample Letter for Non-Gendered Bathroom Organizing (2)

Gender Neutral Bathroom Survey (results)


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