What Are Gender Neutral Restrooms?
Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had not experienced using a gender neutral restroom. That is besides the "gender neutral" restroom that is housed in my house. We all forget that the restrooms inside of our houses are "gender neutral" to an extent (a large extent). If you are married then, the argument is amplified. Stay tuned for more on that thought.
In a recent article that appeared in the "New York Times" titled "Transgender Bathroom Debate Turns Personal At A Vermont High School" there was an excerpt that I identified with based on a recent experience. Last week, I had a chance to use my first "gender neutral" restroom over on the campus of the Los Angeles Trade Technical College (in Los Angeles, California). First, let me share the excerpt that caught my attention:
CHESTER, Vt. — The way A J Jackson tells it, he kept his head ducked down and pretended to fiddle with his cellphone as he walked into the boys’ bathroom and headed for a stall at Green Mountain Union High School here.But the way some of his classmates see it, A J was still Autumn Jackson, a girl in boys’ clothing, who had violated an intimate sanctum, while two boys were standing at a urinal, their private parts exposed.“It’s like me going into a girls’ bathroom wearing a wig,” Tanner Bischofberger, 15, a classmate of A J Jackson’s, who was not one of those in the bathroom, said this week. “It’s just weird.”A complaint about Mr. Jackson’s using the boys’ bathroom set off a protest by students advocating the right of their transgender classmate to use the bathroom of his choice. On Thursday, the schools superintendent announced a new practice at the high school allowing transgender students to use the sex-specific bathroom of their choice, rather than being encouraged to use a gender-neutral bathroom. The announcement came a day before the Obama administration’s national directive was announced.
A month ago, I would have read this excerpt and thought differently than I did a couple of weeks ago. The difference is due to my experience at a conference which involved using my first "gender neutral" restroom. Here is the door to the restroom at the Los Angeles Technical Trade College:
Upon a closer inspection, I read the placard on the door as shown below:
When I walked into the restroom, I noticed the following configuration of urinals and stalls -- which surprised me:
This did not appear to be the proper configuration of a gender neutral restroom in my mind. The reasons will be made known shortly. I thought that the current configuration was strange. I was planning to use the urinal. My first thought was "what if a lady comes into the restroom?" I looked at the door and there was a lock on the door. I thought using the lock would make the restroom safer, but would limit the total number of users at a given time. I hurried up and used the urinal with a constant visual line toward the door. After, I left immediately and went to the conference.
The experience was unusual and I can relate to the excerpts above. Although, I do not really have an issue with the concept. I do have an issue with the presence of urinals without any casing (stalls). After sitting at the table for a while, a lady from another transportation department sat down at my table. She had a similar experience from a different perspective.
Her experience with the same restroom was that upon entering the restroom shown above, two men (in their 60's) were using the urinals. She waited patiently for the stall. One of the men looked back at her and asked "why are you in here?" She thought that the question was strange. She felt uncomfortable. Clearly, the planning behind this restroom was not properly executed.
Couple this to the old men having the stigma of gender based restrooms over the past few decades. Removing the urinals might have changed this potential problem arising from this brief interaction. The presence of the urinals introduces the "gender aspect" of the restroom. At least, these are my initial thoughts on the matter.
Lately, in the news, there has been a large amount of controversy. In a recent story by "NPR" titled "When A Transgender Person Uses A Restroom, Who Is At Risk?" the author interviewed different people who were both for and against the use of gender neutral restrooms. Here is an excerpt that is of concern to me:
But those cases involve sexual predators who put on women's clothes and violated any number of previously existing laws. And conflating "transgender" with "predator" is something many find offensive."As a trans person ... it's hard not to take it personally when people are comparing trans people to child predators or saying that we're somehow dangerous," says Alison Gill, vice chair of the Trans United Fund.Gill points out that not long ago, many people incorrectly thought gay men were pedophiles.She says some people just don't understand that when it comes time for a transgender person to start using the other restroom, they'd rather do it privately, and with as little fuss as possible."The last thing you as a trans person would want to do is draw attention to yourself," Gill says.
Just because a person uses the restroom that does not look the same as you -- gives you no right to harass or treat them differently. I believe that the idea that people will dress up in the opposite sexes clothing to take advantage has little merit today. If the urinals were removed from the restroom, then the identity of the person using the restroom would be unknown.
Why Urinals Need To Be Removed?
As I mentioned above, the presence of urinals in a "gender neutral" restroom indicates a discrimination of the occupants of the restroom. Why? Because, a woman cannot walk into the restroom and use the urinal while a man is waiting to use the stall. This was pointed out in the story above. Why is this the case? Lets look at the problem from the perspective of the male.
Below is a picture of the main reason for the removal of urinals in "gender neutral" restrooms:
Source: "Urinal Etiquette" -- Huffington Post
One of the mistakes the facility planners make when designing the layout of the men's restroom is to forget to install "dividers" between urinals. These are metal boards which serve to separate each urinal. This might sound trivial to most people. If so, read the article that the above picture is sourced to on "urinal etiquette."
A common problem is shown in the above image of the two men using the restroom. The man on the right in the above picture has turned and is zipping up his pants followed by buckling his belt. This is considered a "no no" if there is no "urinal divider" or even if there is.
Why do men do this action?
The reason most likely resides around the fact that after flushing the urinal, the water is rushing down (due to pressure) to clean the urinal. No body wants to get their pants wet during the process of zipping up their pants and fastening their belts. Furthermore, the chance might of either garments or belts touching the inside of the urinal might be real -- depending how close the person is standing to the urinal.
See how complicated using a urinal is?
I bet you never put that much thought into the process. This could be mitigated by simply removing the urinals in a restroom. Furthermore, below is an example of a newly renovated restroom at a university which will never completely get used -- due to no urinal dividers:
Returning to the issue of gender neutral restrooms.
Gender Neutral Restrooms Are Nothing New?
You read correctly. Gender neutral restrooms are not new in certain institutions. For example, take the University of California at Berkeley -- freshmen dorms. Below is a picture of the gender neutral dorm restrooms:
Furthermore, I found a little "gif" displaying the situation at the dorms. Shown below are a male and a female student in the gender neutral restroom:
You can see the awkwardness of the student on the right. Obviously, the video participants are exaggerating the situation of having to share the restroom. This is a perfect example of the current situation being an old situation. Nothing new.
Why is the issue circulating in the media?
After thinking about this post and writing, I have a few new thoughts on laws regarding restrooms. A few months ago, I was asked to be a science judge for an elementary school. The judging session took place at the end of the work day (in the evening when no children were present). I had to use the restroom. I asked the organizer where the restroom was. She directed me down the hall. I quickly entered the restroom and used a stall. I had to really use the restroom. I was sitting down and I heard the door open. What happened next?
I saw a person entering the stall next to me. That person had 'high heels' on. Turned out, the men and women's restroom were right next to each other and the ladies instructed me to the women's rather than the men's -- naturally, they are women. Wow. I was surprised. I have to admit, at first, I was confused and was embarrassed.
How did I find myself going "#2" in the women's restroom? Oh my goodness.
I let the person next to me finish using the restroom, then I finished quickly and nervously to say the least. I had to figure out how to escape the restroom quickly -- how was I going to explain this mistake?
One of my colleagues years ago said to me that the construct of "gender" was an idea -- nothing more than that. O.K. We are taught from a young age to use a "gender neutral" restroom with our sisters and brothers. Gender is only introduced when we leave our house by society. Of course, anatomy aside. The presence of urinals introduce the gender role. I like using urinals -- since I am a guy. But, if we are going to have "gender neutral" restrooms, the restrooms will have to resemble those located in the dorms of UC Berkeley.
A major configuration is going to have to occur. Or, just remove the urinals and paint the walls a neutral color (not blue or pink). That is all I have to say at this point. Oh, lets all try to get along. Have some respect for your fellow neighbor. Lets try to respect each other. Have a great day.