In Emily Bazelon’s article, “Making Bathrooms More Accommodating,” she addresses the issues that separating bathroom facilities based on sex has for people who are transgender.
What’s the big deal?
As society continues to battle over accepting transgender individuals as the norm, another issue has developed for transgender people. Many times, these people are subject to the humiliation of being told they cannot use the bathroom of the gender that they identify as. Emily Bazelon uses the example of high schools that agree to call transgender students by their chosen name, and classify them as their chosen gender, except when it comes to the locker-room. Such high schools do not allow transgender students to use the locker room of the opposite anatomical sex. This means that transgender girls are not allowed to change in the girls’ locker room.
Movements to combine bathrooms and allow the entry of both men and women have been met with opposition. In Houston early November 2015, a broad equal rights ordinance was rejected. Although this ordinance protected against discrimination in housing, employment, and public spaces based on age, race, sexual orientation, and gender identity, opponents zeroed in on the fact that this would mean the integration of public bathrooms. They created “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms” t-shirts and an ad seen below, pointing out the dangers of integrating bathroom facilities. Bazelon points out that while people resist the idea of mixing the sexes in bathrooms and locker rooms, deeming it unsafe and a violation of privacy, this is a common ordinance in many other countries.
Why do we separate the sexes anyway?
“However natural separating men and women in the bathroom may seem, it’s a cultural creation” (Bazelon). This practice was driven by sexism and, in some instances, racism. According to Bazelon, the creation of sex-separated bathrooms is rooted in the belief that women needed a place for privacy and to rest their “weaker body” which was “prone to dizziness and fainting” (Bazelon).
The issue of integrating bathrooms goes beyond the resisting voices. The culture associated with women’s bathrooms would come to an abrupt end. It has become a social norm and “girl code” for women to retreat to the bathroom together, where they are free to discuss anything without men overhearing. Many women apparently see this integration as just another instance of anatomical men pushing aside the rights of anatomical women to accommodate themselves. This way of thinking not only simplifies the transgender experience but classifies them based on their anatomy instead of the gender that they identify with.
But is it really that complicated?
On the other side of the argument, people view making accommodations for transgender people the same as making accommodations for people with disabilities. It is a much simpler concept than it is perceived to be. Providing bars to help the disabled is equally as simple as providing a curtain for transgender students, or any student, to change behind in the locker room. The women on this side of the argument see this integration as a step in the right the direction for feminism, and also an end to the everlasting line to the ladies’ room.
Bazelon, Emily. “Making Bathrooms More Accommodating.” New York Times Magazine.
17 Nov 2015. Web. 13 Feb 2016
“Campaign For Houston TV Commercial.” Youtube. Youtube, 12 Oct 2015. Web. 13 Feb
Transgender Bathrooms. Calbuzz. 2014. Web. 13 February 2016.