Put a rest to gendered restrooms

By Mia LaMarco

Opinion Contributor

Okay, so we’ve made it through our first class, we’ve had our first of many coffees for the day, and our biology tells us it’s time to get rid of some of the liquid we’ve consumed. I think we all take for granted the comfort of mindlessly entering the men’s or ladies’ room. We don’t need to consider our clothing choices and whether we pass for whatever word is plastered to the bathroom door. We don’t have to worry about dirty looks when we exit or enter.

Consider if the restrooms were divided by hobbies, if there were a restroom for athletes and one for non-athletic, regular people. Maybe you played soccer in high school, or you just like to toss around a volleyball at the beach with friends, or you bowl. It might be stressful to choose whether you consider yourself an athlete or not, and having to choose which restroom to enter takes on a whole new importance.

This is a similar experience for a genderfluid or transgender person. Why not provide a safe and stress free option for not only this community, but for everyone? “Gender neutral” bathrooms are becoming commonplace around the nation, especially in institutions of higher education. Even the archaic–I mean, Jesuit–college we all attend has introduced a few gender neutral bathrooms to our campus.  Some may say this is a victory and should be celebrated, but I say we aren’t doing enough.

Typically, the bathrooms that are converted to gender neutral are single-stall, and formerly family or handicapped bathrooms. This means that individuals who chose to relieve themselves in these restrooms must first find one of the five scattered around campus, possibly diverting themselves from whichever direction they were headed in. Not only does this force them to plan ahead to ensure they have time to reach any obligation, but they still face the ridicule of a special bathroom, isolated and singular, to remind them just how different and “abnormal” they are. This is not any better for these individuals. This is not any better for these individuals. It still points them out as different and ostracizes them by providing so few, isolated places where they can go.

I would argue that no bathroom should be gendered at all. Do we still live in such a culture that believes that sexual urges cannot be contained within the walls of a room full of toilets? Does the bit of calf that is exposed under the stall door really provoke so much lust that we feel the sexual tension is too high to survive? It is really ridiculous when you give it some thought. Everyone enters a bathroom with the same purpose, and although the act of relieving your bladder differs between the sexes, the place where this occurs does not need to be segregated. The privacy of a stall provides enough comfort that anyone of any sex, gender, sexuality, age, race, or religion can enter and exit without fear of shame or ridicule.

If you are of stubborn mind and spirit and this proposition still remains unsettling, first of all: you’re in college. Open your mind to the possibility of advancement and change, because this is the place where that happens. Second of all: consider this philosophical thought experiment, as I’m sure your core classes have exposed you to them before. You are a young child again, just becoming conscious of your own opinions and thoughts, being sent off to elementary school and learning so much each and every day about the workings of the world around you. Your teacher, who you may or may not accidently call your mom or dad on occasion, leads the class to the washroom down the hall after lunch. Your entire class enters and takes turns going into a stall, doing their business, washing their hands, and getting back in line to return to class. You know nothing different, nothing has tainted your idea of sex or desire or lust or shame, and whether a boy or girl occupies the stall next to you is irrelevant compared to the thought of getting back to class and coloring.

If each of us were raised without the boundaries of two separate doors with two separate genders, if that wall between the toilets was broken down, perhaps so would the impenetrable walls of gender stereotype and associative traits and behaviors. Perhaps it could lead to a more free individual with the opportunity to find themselves solely on how they feel inside, and not what society decides for them.

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