Gender-Neutral Bathrooms



In Emily Bazelon’s article “Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating’ ” she discusses the importance of accommodating  aspects of our society, such as public restrooms, to include marginalized groups.As the privileged majority, we do not consider how a bathroom is designed to exclude minority and disabled groups. Restrooms are available to the public as a basic human right, however our society constricts and places labels. The invasion of the opposite sex in a state of vulnerability can lead to “discomfort, or even real trouble”. In particular, transgender people are challenging social norms, “from signs to design to who gets to enter where”.

Bazelon defines “accommodate” as “to adapt, to bring into agreement or harmony, to furnish with something desired or needed, to favor or oblige”.  The word can be welcoming and positive but it can also mean “moving over to make room for other people, whether you want to or not”. “Mara Keisling, co-founder and director of the National Center for Transgender Equality…stated…Having a civil society is all about accommodation. Any relationship demands that”. In our society, transgender people accommodate to use the bathroom on a daily basis.

Separating men and woman in the bathroom is a social construct that is rooted in the Victorian era. In the 19th century, woman moved into places dominated by men”like factories, parks and libraries” , which compelled states to require “sex-segregated ‘‘water closets’’. Privacy and sanitation justified the segregation, as well as ‘‘weaker body of the woman worker,’’. Restrooms were integrated in the 1940’s, and”white women refused to share bathrooms with their black co-workers, claiming they would catch syphilis from towels and toilet seats”. There is a fear of the unknown that exists in the collective conscious, even when physical danger is not present.

Women are attached to the idea as the restroom  as a “relaxing ‘‘all-female enclave.’”, where they chat with their girlfriends. Therefore, they are disturbed by male anatomy invading their sanctuary. Transgender woman may identify as female, however so women fail to see past their genetic makeup and anatomy. Bazelon believes this thought process “oversimplifies the experience of transgender people and the biology of chromosomes, which can appear in other combinations”. In some cases accommodation can mean a unisex stall for those who are on the “spectrum of male and female”. For others, like a 12-year old girl from Connecticut its simply fitting into the “all-female enclave”.

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