Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Some Potty Talk From Huffington Post

In this Huffington Post piece, Carlos A. Ball makes an argument for transgender-friendly bathrooms in the workplace.

The piece has some issues (too many to name, maybe).

And still, it makes some interesting points about the history of bathrooms as contested spaces. And further, it provides odd insight into how a gay mainstream might talk about gender-variant folks and restrooms.

I recently learned that the Center on Halsted made the decision not to de-gender many of their restrooms. Part of the argument for this decision was that many transgender people have worked hard for the right to use one restroom or the other. My feeling is that maybe no one should have to work at all in the first place...

I vote for gender-neutral restrooms. What's your take?

Posted by: Kate


  1. "Male" bathrooms and "female" bathrooms are just another way of enforcing sexist gender segregation, the idea that women are so dirty and inferior that they can't even share the same bathroom- same concept with racial segregation of bathrooms.

    Getting rid of segregated bathrooms? Whether its because its unjust or out of consideration for those who fall outside the gender binary, let's do it.

  2. Regarding the Center on Halsted: I understand that using a specifically gendered restroom is really important for many transgender people, and I respect that. I really do. At the same time, that isn't the case for a lot of other transfolk, and it saddens and disappoints me that the restrooms at a place like the Center on Halsted will still be a cause of stress and anxiety for people.

    Although I only know what you've just posted about this decision, it seems to me that it privileges transfolk (and other people) who have that binary essence--that feeling of "Yes, I am a woman" or "Yes, I am a man." It values them more highly that people who don't fit--and don't want to fit--into that binary.

    From a semi-Utilitarian standpoint, does the happiness generated by transwomen and transmen (and other people) who are allowed to walk into the binarily gendered restroom of their choice outweigh the distress and embarrassment felt by others when forced to use a restroom that states either "women" or "men"? To me, it makes the Center on Halsted feel like a slightly less-safe space.

    I'm strongly in favor of gender-neutral restrooms. And frankly, I think it's ridiculous that people need to work for the right to use a restroom. Or rather I think it ridiculous that some people are so focused on gender-policing restrooms; I don't find it ridiculous that people have worked for that right, and I don't want to dismiss those efforts.

    Sorry for getting up on my soapbox. I apparently have a lot to say about restrooms and fewer opportunities to share those thoughts.

  3. I'm 100% for gendered bathrooms, but I think that we should calm the F down about who belongs in which. Let people decide for themselves, and if you don't fit the binary, you should be able to use whichever you feel like using at any time.
    I spent too many years having to deal with puddles from guys who can't aim to go back to that, and the thought of a guy accidentally walking in on me, frankly scares the crap out of me. I think many women would agree.

  4. Hey Ryan,

    I think you bring up a lot of my own concerns.

    For the record, Center on Halsted does have a gender-neutral single stall restroom on the 2nd and 3rd floor. However, in my own experience, I've never found it unlocked to use. I'm not sure if that means that COH locks it or if it means that demand for it is too great.

    Finally, I've watched people using the downstairs bathrooms (which are gendered) get repeatedly harassed by Whole Foods Customers.


  5. Yeah, but Tori--some of us outside the binary _never_ "feel like" using a gendered bathroom, regardless of whether it's men's or women's. I don't want anyone to have to deal with puddles of pee, but keeping some gendered bathrooms and offering enough all-gender bathrooms to be sure they're easily available do not have to be mutually exclusive.

  6. I think Center on Halsted needs to recognize that they have marketed themselves as a community center for the lgbT community. That comes with a responsibility to earn the T. I know lots of people who rely on the non-gendered bathrooms at COH as a safe space to change clothes/presentation away from their homes. This may actually take them quite a bit of time, but it gives them the safety and comfort that they need. To start degendering the bathrooms or locking the non-gendered bathrooms at COH would truly be neglectful of the needs of the community. Shame on you COH.


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