In political discourse, toilets occupy a ridiculous amount of space. While overblown, the issue of public restrooms carries genuine concerns and consequences for equality.
At Geneseo, the administration has taken a critical step forward toward restroom equity by establishing all-gender—or gender inclusive—restrooms throughout campus. Nevertheless, all on-campus bathrooms need to be all-gender rather than a select few.
In designating all-gender restrooms, institutions recognize not only the antiquated falsehood of the gender binary, but also the needs of groups not adequately serviced by standard male and female restrooms. In many on-campus locations, however, a gender inclusive restroom only replaces the male option, while the female alternative remains.
Offering a “Women’s” and an “All-Gender” restroom, as many campus buildings do, still reinforces a gender binary. They position women against non-women and thereby maintain the male/female divide.
To actualize the intent of gender inclusive restrooms, institutions must eradicate gendered restrooms completely and only provide an all-gender option. This imperative lies fundamentally in concerns of safety, convenience and equity for often marginalized groups.
Of course, the most contentious debates around restrooms generally foreground transgender and otherwise gender non-conforming folks. In these cases, gender inclusive bathrooms carry the invaluable option of minimizing public hostility and confrontation.
Other beneficiaries of all-gender bathrooms include parents and caretakers, not to mention women, whose experience in public bathrooms often consists of waiting in line much longer than others.
To counteract gendered restrooms, institutions should establish spaces wherein a larger number of stalls—not urinals—provide a more equitable and efficient experience for all. Rather than having two smaller, sex-segregated restrooms, buildings should have a larger space accessible to all visitors or patrons for an expedient, simple experience.
Obviously, this solution does not present itself as resoundingly self-evident to all and can fuel an oddly passionate debate, often grounded in empty, occasionally fearmongering concerns about privacy and protection.
Conservative adversaries to all-gender restrooms have concocted a narrative in which the Harvey Weinsteins and Bill Cosbys of the world would exploit all-gender restrooms by turning them into hunting grounds.
Although conservatives typically use this argument in a transphobic context, the much more basic issue with it rests in a complete abandonment of rationality and logic. In making this case, conservatives seem to forget that sex offenders—criminals—have no regard for the law by definition. These hypothetical offenders certainly don’t just sit around waiting for technicalities that will facilitate their lawlessness.
If someone intends to sexually assault someone, the label on a restroom door has no bearing on their decision to follow through. Besides, if conservatives genuinely cared about sexual assault, the current occupant of the West Wing wouldn’t be a deviant with several credible allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
Of course, the less-charged argument objects to establishing only gender inclusive restrooms on the basis of urinals, which lead to some nudity that might make a mixed-gender space uncomfortable. Therefore, the urinal should be eradicated right along with sex-segregated restrooms. While admittedly convenient, the urinal does not serve an absolutely crucial or necessary role in using the restroom.
In the least serious situation, sex-segregated restrooms present an inconvenience—disproportionately shouldered by women—or an awkward dilemma for parents and caregivers. In the most critical context, however, binary restrooms create dangerous situations of potential violence against those who don’t identify with their gender assigned at birth.
An obvious solution exists: eliminate sex-segregated facilities and replace them completely with all-gender restrooms.