While driving around the other week, my partner spotted this sign at the firehouse around the corner from us. They were temporarily closed while they renovated the bathrooms! I was floored by this – went back and took a photo of the sign. Way to go, neighborhood firehouse!
This post is part 2 in a series about some issues that are on the minds of a lot of non-binary people. Part 1 was about why I prefer male pronouns. Today I’m talking about bathrooms. Part 3 will be about legal designations / filling out forms.
I am someone who is inhabiting a space in this world, in between genders. There is a growing language, subculture of sorts, and political agendas surrounding this experience. In theory, I am on board with all I’ve seen (and let me clarify that what I’ve seen is almost entirely online at this time, and not reflected in the world I actually live in). But in actuality, not every part of it appeals to me personally. Which is OK – I can still support it while simultaneously getting the word out that not all non-binary people have the same needs, preferences, and agendas.
In general, I use the women’s restroom. The reason for this is: because it is where I would rather go, despite the fact that I see myself in more masculine terms, overall. No need for a further explanation – no need to try to align different areas of my life into one gendered idea of myself (even if that one gendered idea is “gender neutral,”) if I don’t feel like it.
If there is a single stall / gender neutral one available, I would prefer to use that bathroom. But usually there is not, and it is not something that I am personally concerned about. I feel comfortable enough in the women’s restroom. I don’t have any anxiety about it. I don’t second guess it. I’ve rarely been confronted (I keep my head down, avert my eyes, I don’t linger, etc. I am aware I don’t completely belong, so I wanna be as inconspicuous as possible, and so far so good.)
(I wrote an earlier post about my experience with bathrooms, here, at Bathroom anxieties: a genderqueer janitor’s perspective.)
However, many non-binary and transitioning people do not feel safe and/or comfortable in either the women’s or the men’s restroom. Indeed, they are often made to feel unsafe and uncomfortable. There has been a push for more gender neutral bathrooms in public places, over the past few years, particularly at schools and on campuses. Why schools and campuses? I’m not sure exactly, but I can make an educated guess. People in their teens and early twenties are at these places en masse. People in their teens and early twenties tend to be going through changes – they may be focusing on their identities (including gender identities) more so than the general population, so it makes sense they would want to change the spaces where they spend the most time, in order to feel more safe and comfortable.
I hope this movement spreads beyond schools, to include government buildings, corporate chains, every place, really. I think that it will, or, at least, I think this agenda will gain more traction than the push for gender neutral pronouns, which is, comparatively speaking, somewhat nebulous. changes in language are more about changing people’s perceptions and notions on a large scale (potentially very difficult). Bathrooms are about physical spaces, with a direct request that involves a straightforward solution.
New buildings can go up with this floor plan in mind, without much more money or labor. Existing buildings can be remodeled and reorganized. (Something that happens frequently anyway.) Often it’s just a matter of relabeling existing layouts (at no additional cost). For example, if a restaurant has a single stall restroom for men, and a single stall restroom for women, how much work would it take to get that restaurant to just change them both to gender neutral bathrooms? Hopefully within the near future, not much convincing work at all!
Until this is happening anywhere and everywhere (I hope I see the day!!!!), here is an amazing website resource: Refugee Restrooms.
All you have to do is type in your city or location, and it is a database that lists where there are single stall handicap accessible and/or gender neutral restrooms in that area. The database is only as big as everyone makes it, so if you know of bathrooms in your area, go ahead and type in the locations now! I started adding some for my city; let’s spread the word!