Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bathrooms: Two Thoughts

First thought:

A lot of conservatives will panic at the idea of a transwoman using a women's bathroom.  They have this really weird conviction that male sexual predators will pretend to be transwomen, go into women's bathrooms, and sexually assault "real" women and, of course, children.

If you're unsure of why this fear is absurd and rooted in transhate, you're probably reading the wrong blog.

But another thing that I find so incredibly upsetting is this equally absurd idea that women and children will be safe if we keep bathrooms gendered and keep transpeople in the wrong sex and prevent them from using the bathrooms they feel comfortable with.  I'm one of many women who was not assaulted in a bathroom, or by a male sexual predator disguising himself as a transwoman.  Additionally, I know of a woman who was murdered in a reststop bathroom ... by a man who was obviously not pretending to be a transwoman.

The problem here is not that some women using the women's bathroom will have penises.  The problem here is not that some men in the men's bathroom will not have penises.  The problem is that there are people in this world, mostly but not exclusively men, who think that it's okay for them to assault and hurt other people.  There are these people who will decide to hurt people, and if they can't go into the women's bathroom to do it, they'll do it elsewhere.  But allowing men and women to use the bathrooms they feel the most comfortable in?  That's not going to make people assault each other.

Second thought:

As a woman who grew up with an older brother, and who has only NOT lived with men during four years of college, and who currently has three male roommates, I'm not the kind of person who would find Ally McBeal type unisex bathrooms upsetting.  But I've accepted that fine, that's not going to happen any time soon.  In the meantime, I'm mostly annoyed with some of the ways that men's and women's bathrooms are designated.  Even the classic block figures bother me, since like many women, I don't wear skirts frequently.

But I noticed something about the bathrooms at work that first bothered me, and should still bother me, but no longer do.

In the women's bathrooms at my work, the stalls are pink.  Not bright pink, more like a dusty pink, but pink nonetheless.  And in the men's bathroom, the stalls are dark blue.

Why are the stalls so gendered?  I'm not sure, but there's now a reason I'm grateful that the stalls are different colors.

I work at a research institute with an animal facility, and it's essential that we have showers for employees.  The animal facility bathrooms are different, but on the main three floors, the bathrooms are all in the same area, because they all share the same plumbing.  Additionally, on the first floor, the women's bathroom is the one with the shower; the men's bathroom with a shower is on the second floor.  So to make the most of the plumbing, the bathrooms are reversed on the first floor, with the women's room on the left and men's on the right.  On the second floor and third floor, the two floors I usually use the bathroom on, the women's room is on the right.

I rarely use the first floor bathroom.  In fact, I've only used it a couple of times.  One morning, I had to go to the bathroom extremely urgently, as early as halfway to work on the T, and as soon as I got into the building, I was rushing to the bathroom.  Obviously, I wasn't going to wait for the elevator or climb two flights of stairs, so I went to the first floor bathrooms.  I walked in and realized, "Wait ... this doesn't look like the bathroom."  It was very obvious I was in the wrong bathroom because the stalls were the wrong color.

I'm not suggesting that using gendered colors is a good idea, and I'd be one of the first people in line to support non-gendered multi-stalled bathrooms.  But as long as we have separate bathrooms, different color schemes (not necessarily gendered ones) aren't such a bad idea, especially in our institute, where the bathrooms look the same on all three floors, but are reversed on one floor ...

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