In the past few years public restrooms have gotten a lot of attention. To many people this may seem like a silly thing to be up in arms about; it’s just a restroom, isn’t it? The thing is, though, that restrooms are a key factor in determining how we interact with our community. If you can’t access public restrooms, you can’t access public spaces. For some this has never been an issue, but for many different groups of people this is a daily struggle. All-gender restrooms benefit all people.
All-gender restrooms benefit all people
Everyone deserves the dignity to attend to their bodily functions
According to the 2015 U.S Transgender Survey, 59% of those surveyed said they avoid public restrooms entirely for fear of encountering problems. Those problems could be anything from verbal harassment to being denied access entirely. Trans and gender non-conforming people have been at the forefront of the effort to make public restrooms more accessible for a long time.
The simple goal of activists has been to create accessible restrooms for all because everyone deserves the dignity to attend to their bodily functions. The key phrase there is “accessible for all” because all-gender restrooms benefit everyone. People with a disability and those who may have an attendant of a different gender than themselves benefit from all-gender restrooms. Even parents with children would benefit from their implementation. As Luca Maurer, director of LGBTQ education, outreach, and services at Ithaca College, says, “if you’re talking about bathrooms you should be looking at changing tables, ramps, and handrails as well.” In making restrooms we must make sure that they are actually accessible for everyone. This would also mean the implementation of things like sanitary disposal bins for menstrual products in all restrooms. This is what is meant when someone says all-gender restrooms–a restroom where finally anyone can actually use that space.
“If you’re talking about bathrooms you should be looking at changing tables, ramps, and handrails as well.”
– Luca Maurer, director of LGBTQ education, outreach, and services at Ithaca College
Implementing all-gender restrooms
How exactly all-gender restrooms are implemented is another thing that gets brought up. What sounds like a daunting task is usually a pretty simple fix. Most times it’s simply changing the door tag. An example of this would be a store or restaurant that has two single stall restrooms that are labeled “men” and “women,” respectively. If both restrooms only allow one person at a time and have near identical amenities, why gender them in the first place? What this hypothetical business owner could do is simply replace the door tags so that they are now each all-gender.
Making sure both restrooms have amenities such as sanitary disposal bins for menstrual products would be another simple and cheap fix. Obviously not all restrooms are so easy a fix; in the case of a multi-stall restroom it could mean changing the sign and installing stall doors that give more privacy. For small, local businesses and restaurants the former scenario is almost always the case. Making the shift to all-gender restrooms would not only make a sizable number of patrons feel more at ease using the facilities, but it could also mean an ease in restroom traffic, which for a busy restaurant could be important.
For those who have been marginalized by gendered restrooms it means access to the community that has never been available to them. It makes engaging with public life all that much easier and enjoyable. For the father out with his young child it means no longer worrying if the restaurant they are at has a changing table for him to use. Even for businesses it can mean an increase in interest for the business because patrons now know they can enter without the fear of whether or not they can use the restrooms. Going to the restroom is already an awkward experience and potentially dangerous for some–why not fix something that can so easily be solved?