Restroom panic! The solution is so obvious.

09018TPSweet baby Jesus, please let public restrooms all become inclusive/family restrooms already. They’ve been a problem for many of us (if not most of us, at least once in a while) for years, including folks in the non-transgender majority.  John D. Sutter argues that sexed bathrooms are relics that should be abolished as racially-exclusive public restrooms were fifty years ago.  I agree entirely, especially because there’s such a simple solution right before us!

When I was a first-time mother back in the early 2000s, the “family restroom” was fairly new on the scene, and I thought they were lifesavers.  (Maybe they were there all along, and I just didn’t have occasion to seek them out beforehand?)  Changing a baby in most public restrooms isn’t too difficult–I thought the family restrooms were even more useful when the children become toilet-trainee toddlers and little kids, because that’s when the extra space and time for everyone to go came in very handy.  

I’m sure that most of you, like me, have had occasion to enter an opposite-sex restroom. For opposite-sex caregivers of the very young and the very old, it happens all of the time.  What about fathers of young daughter, who might be just fine using the women’s room, but at what age?  Age 5?  Age 4?  What if they’re alone and don’t have a sibling to accompany them?  Mothers of young boys–at what age do you stop insisting that they follow you into the women’s room?  And looking after babies and young children is the easy stuff–what about caregivers of very elderly and/or disabled people, who might need toileting assistance?  Should their ability to travel or appear in public depend on their having a same-sex caregiver who can take them into public restrooms assigned either to men or to women?

But long before North Carolina passed its noxious bathroom bill, public restrooms were spaces in which some people have felt free to shame one another.  As a short-haired woman (and a femmy one at that), I’ve been scolded for using the women’s room!    This also has happened to most of the butch lesbians I know, too.  Even as an XX woman who’s recognized 99.9% of the time as a woman, it’s embarrassing when someone presumes to gender-shame you.  Once, when I was in a gas station waiting in the long line for the women’s room, I hopped into the (empty!) men’s room to relieve myself (trust me, it was a travel emergency), and was then lectured by the clerk as I walked out, “next time, you can use the ladies’ room!”  (Yeah, like there’s gonna be a next time!  Piss off, South Bend, Indiana!)

So count me among the millions of Americans who would be thrilled to see our sexed bathrooms go the way of “smoking areas” on airplanes and restaurants, and racially segregated drinking fountains.  As Sutter argues, “No one’s harmed as long as we men stop peeing on the toilet seat.”  (Truth be told, women are just as guilty!  Maybe even worse, because some extremely stupid women think that sitting down on a toilet seat will somehow be more sanitary for them than trying to hover over and peeing all over the seat.  Tacky!)

So please, everyone:  if you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat!


6 thoughts on “Restroom panic! The solution is so obvious.

  1. The “problem” got solved in a flash on the way to the July 9, 1979, “March on Washington” to urge the Congress to extend the “deadline” for the ratification of the ERA. When several dozen buses stopped at the same time at one of the Maryland rest stops on I-95 ( I’m looking at the commemorative purple, gold, and white button as I type), a thousand or more women charged all of the rest rooms, which immediately became de facto unisex. Nobody seemed to think there was any big problem with that, and Congress even did what it was supposed to do and extended the “deadline.” Of which, since any moderately strict reading of the Constitution doesn’t reveal any delegation to Congress of the power to time-limit the consideration of amendments, maybe we could move on (or back) to the more substantive business of finishing the job on the ERA, building or converting the Family Restrooms, and positioning the latter as an always-popular jobs program.


  2. We have all three, uni, F, and M, in the building where I work. If the unisex rooms also had foot washing facilities, we’d really be somewhere.

    We had a brief period when *all* the bathrooms in a large building on campus went unisex, stalls, urinals, and all. It was a bit of a shock to the system and I would imagine that religious conservative people had to find facilities in other buildings.


  3. I could not agree more! At our local rec center, children were required to use their assigned sex locker room at age 5. Call me over protective, but I’m not comfortable with my 5 year old son using the bathroom and changing out of his swim clothes solo. Mostly because I think it would take about three times as long as it should and his swim trunks would be backward, but all the same, family facilities would be so much better!


    • I agree with ej. The place where we do swim lessons requires the same thing at the age of six. I cannot imagine sending my daughter on her own to change and shower, for the reasons ej outlines above. Previously we did swim lessons at the YMCA and they had family changing rooms, but they were badly in need of updating. More family restrooms and more unisex restrooms.


  4. One thing that we do not have enough of are changing tables in restrooms, period. There are a few fast food chains that do have them, and the public restrooms in my state tend to have them, but they are far and few between otherwise. I remember changing my daughter on the floor of a bathroom stall at an In-n-out Burger off of the 101 the last time we were in California. Not sanitary or easy to manage. The next time I just changed her in the trunk of the rental car.


  5. “I hopped into the (empty!) men’s room to relieve myself (trust me, it was a travel emergency), and was then lectured by the clerk as I walked out, “next time, you can use the ladies’ room!” (Yeah, like there’s gonna be a next time! Piss off, South Bend, Indiana!)”

    Yes, I do this all the time! Especially when a dozen women are standing in line outside of a single-stall ladies’ room and the single-stall men’s room is unoccupied, with no wait. There is little in the world more un-thinking and irrational to me than when people designate single-stall restrooms for different genders – I mean, why?! What is the purpose? If people are going in alone anyway – what “harm” is being prevent?? (And FWIW, I’m also okay with all restrooms being gender neutral).


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