“Do you know who would probably be the largest group to benefit from gender neutral bathrooms? Dads with daughters.”
This quote is comes from a recent conversation my father brought up while watching television with me. It is the conversation that inspired this essay. He proceeded to talk about how men like him, while running errands or spending time with their girls, find themselves in a great debacle when their child suddenly needs to make a visit to the bathroom.
It was a story I was obviously a part of as his daughter, but never considered until he brought it up. The scouting out of the men’s room, and then keeping it clear as the girl takes care of her business. For women, it has never been a big deal to take their children into the restroom, regardless of gender. It is a different story for men.
With this epiphany, another comes to mind: why is the gendering of bathrooms something heralded as safer for family? Why does a neutral restroom space strike fear in the hearts of those who insist upon bathrooms being divided? What actual harm comes from something that apparently can benefit a wide range of people?
Well, it does not take much deductive reasoning to realize the actual issue is discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. The fear of difference and the unknown leads government and other societal forces to criticize and condemn the notion of the removal of gender. In their own insecurities, everything becomes exaggerated in the quest to hyper-gender for the sake of comfort.
However, the comfort only exists for a portion of peoples as those who do not follow this rigid gender structure find themselves in a confining and often difficult position. This forcing of gender normativity invalidates the identities of many, and this result is harmful and unnecessary.
A genderqueer individual, Jacob Tobia, wrote a anecdotal article for TIME regarding the issue of gender neutral bathroom spaces. Tobia attending nearby Duke University reminisced over the ideal living situation in the university residence hall.
“Throughout my entire senior year at Duke University, I lived on a floor with completely co-ed bathrooms. When the bathroom got busy, I showered and peed one stall over from women and men and trans people alike. For the cis students on my hall, the co-ed bathroom wasn’t a big deal. But for the trans students, myself included, it was a revelation. I finally felt safe when I needed to tinkle.”
This model shows us that the idea of predators and other villains coming for us in the restrooms is not much more than fear-based propaganda, created by politicians who have their own personal agendas ahead of the needs of the people they are meant to serve.
If we really want to look at research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the majority of sexual assault and rape cases are perpetrated by someone close to the victim. This means romantic partners, relatives, friends and others that have a direct relationship to us. A bathroom label would not stop these from occurring, and to claim otherwise is just creating a political scapegoat.
At the same time, this idea of males only going into male designated restrooms and women to women’s restrooms is null and void when you take into account children.
Are we going to start criminalizing the young children who have to go with their parents to the bathroom? Will laws have to be made regarding at what age this becomes illegal? Will we have to show identification every time we need to use the toilet? No. That would be absurd.
Then, there is the stereotyping of gender, as if women need to be protected. Jacob Tobia put it in the best words saying, “Gender-segregated restrooms are one of the last absolute gender divides in our society, and they reinforce from a very early age the idea that women and men are fundamentally different.”
If we really want to protect children, we should probably make a place where parents can ensure the safety of their kids in the bathroom without worry of gender inhibiting the process. If we are going to claim to be an equal society, we need to stop treating women as damsels, or like deer in an open field when we make a pit stop at the nearest public toilet.
The possibility of having entirely gender-free bathroom spaces is a reality, and it can be a reality not just in isolated instances like Tobia’s narrative. It would save a lot of heartache for those like Jacob Tobia, and those like my father.
Stories of wrangling an anxious toddler while ensuring no stranger was using the urinals would become a thing of the past. Transgender individuals and queer people would have one less worry. It isn’t like the toilet itself has a some special gendering mechanism. We all use same commodes at home, so why not in the public sphere can we do the same?
We all just want to pee in peace, and that is not going to change if we remove these myths that cloud the truths of gender in public spaces. Let us just go ahead and call the bull that politicians are trying to sell us, and flush that heaping pile of excuses down the toilets these fear-mongering fools are so desperately trying to gender.