My name is Paris, and one of the most liberating experiences of my life occurred in a public restroom.
I recently peed alongside a male friend of mine. One evening, a mixed-sex group of my friends and I heard the call of nature and came to discover that the only place to relieve ourselves was a gender neutral bathroom nearby.
We walked into the same restroom, split into separate stalls and urinals and got on with our business. We emerged from our respective stalls, washed our hands together and talked about our experience. Most notably, we discussed things that we had never realized about what going to the bathroom must be like for the other gender. For example, many men are taller than stall walls and are easily able to look over them. Who knew? As a 5’2” female, I certainly didn’t.
As bizarre and possibly stupid as this account sounds, I had such a positive experience that I began wondering why humans have gendered bathrooms at all. Not only are there multiple benefits for people whose sex matches their gender, but having gender neutral bathrooms allows comfort for those in the transgender community. Furthermore, the equality of the sexes is proven through that bathroom, one of the most intimate and primal settings that we as domesticated mammals participate in.
The lack of access to gender-neutral restrooms is one of the most prominent concerns among trans individuals. For transgender and gender non-conforming people, the lack of safe bathroom access can be viewed as a form of discrimination.
For those who are currently in the process of transitioning genders, and for those who do not find themselves on the gender spectrum at all, going to the bathroom is a far more stressful event than cis-gendered people often realize. Gender neutral bathrooms help combat transphobia and allow for gender non-conforming and non-binary individuals to be more comfortable with a basic body function without the added pressure of thinking that they will make somebody else uncomfortable.
Past a certain age, it is socially unacceptable for a child to accompany their parent to the restroom. My parents divorced before I could walk, and many of my childhood memories include splitting up from my brother and father to go into public restrooms when family bathrooms were not available. This caused safety risks for a young girl and discomfort for people in the bathroom when my father would inevitably yell into the women’s bathroom in order to check on me.
Going to the bathroom is one of the only activities that is completely equal across all gender lines, and separating people by gender to participate in a natural bodily function encourages shame. Gender neutral bathrooms equalize male and female genitalia, as well as further legitimize the identification of other genders.
Please make no mistake in thinking that I don’t understand that not all people will be comfortable with the concept of mixed gender bathrooms. Familiarization with a situation is what makes humans more comfortable with it.
There is no reason to think that people will forever ban the idea that all genders can find common ground in the bathroom. I am not suggesting that we immediately do away with gender-specific restrooms. Rather, I feel as though if there was always a neutral bathroom alongside other bathrooms, there would be positive results for all.