As a department store, we’ve been advised to neutralize our restrooms for costumers and staff in 2016. However, it seems that people are afraid of gender-neutral bathrooms and we’re experiencing resistance.
My question is two-fold: how to designate how transgender people will access the restrooms? By the person’s biological gender that defines them in terms of chromosomes and sex at birth or let them go where they feel the most comfortable?
And secondly, would we be setting up situations that could create sexual violence? For instance, what if a predatory man follows a young girl into the restroom, which traditionally has been a safe haven for women?
–Name withheld, Providence, RI
There are no statistics that I know of that indicate that public restrooms are any more sexually dangerous than any other public spaces, such as locker rooms, parking garages, alleys between buildings, and staircases inside public buildings. It’s true, however, that restrooms in subways, bus stations, and parks can be risky.
Renovating your restrooms into gender-neutral multi-stall bathrooms, with high dividers, and simply labeled “Restroom” could well be your best solution. Especially when there is the option of a single-stall bathroom designated as gender-neutral — the sign on the door would say “Single Stall” — which should be easily accessed.
This more private “Single Stall” would include (besides a toilet) a changing station for babies, a chair/bench for a mother to sit while breast feeding or pumping her milk and handrails for those in a wheelchair.
Public restrooms may be the only everyday social institution remaining (aside from single-sex private clubs and schools), which aren’t public spaces where genders are forced to separate. It may well be the last war on gender itself.
For well over a hundred years public restrooms have reflected our sexual politics. First making it normal for a woman to be out in public going to school and working (while still needing her privacy when she relieves herself), and now that we are progressing toward assimilation it is no longer a big deal to share a restroom.
Federal, state and municipal codes are slowly changing. If you’ve been advised to go with the times, why not try truly public Restrooms that include a Single-Stall bathroom accessible to transgenders, folks in wheelchairs, and parents or caregivers.
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