BY NORBERT RUG
One of the issues that many transgender individuals face concerns restrooms. The best choice is to use a unisex bathroom if one is available. Unfortunately, most public places don’t offer unisex restrooms. However some places will offer a family friendly washroom where either gender is welcome. Target has added to the turmoil by allowing you to use the bathroom of the gender you believe you are.
A recent North Carolina civil act states that in schools and government buildings, people must use the bathroom that corresponds with their biological sex, defined as the one stated on a person’s birth certificate. If you think that the people in your “sex specific” bathroom are always the same gender as you are, you are deluding yourself. It’s likely that few Americans even notice transsexuals as they use public bathrooms.
Over a hundred and twenty five years ago, Massachusetts passed the first law mandating gender segregated toilet facilities. Gender segregated restrooms in the United States and Europe are a remnant of the Victorian era where women’s modesty and safety were considered at risk and under constant need of monitoring. This means that much of the United States’ toilet related building codes reflect a Victorian era prudishness.
We have one bathroom at our house that is used by all the family members, male and female, and the only issues we have had is whether the seat should be left up or down, who left the sink a mess, and which way the toilet paper should unroll.
There are very few transgender people in the United States. The 2010 census shows that only 89,667 adults had changed their names from one sex to another. That’s roughly 1 in 2,500 adults. Even the advocates of greater status for people who live as people of the opposite sex say that only one in every 400 American adults is transgender.
Some people think the “bathroom issue” is actually bigger than men using a woman’s bathroom or a woman using a men’s bathroom. With the exception of urinals, the bathrooms are basically the same. To my knowledge, there has not been a single reported case of harassment by a transsexual employee of other employees in a bathroom. In the 17 states and 200 cities that expressly permit transgender people to use whatever bathroom they want, there has been no increase in sexual assault of any kind. Bathrooms are places where we feel exposed, where we actually have our pants down, and feeling exposed is one step away from feeling fearful. If anyone is threatened in restrooms, however, it is transgendered people. There are stalls for privacy, use them.
There have been co-ed bathrooms and saunas for a long time in Europe and they don’t seem to have a problem with them. They’ve been around for centuries. They even date back to the Roman Empire. In Japan, they still have unisex public bath houses called a Sentō where men, women, boys and girls all share the same communal bath house.
People with profound physical and developmental disabilities or small children often need help while going to the bathroom and frequently their caregiver is of the opposite sex. Personal safety should be the top priority in these cases not what gender the caregiver is.
I have known a few gay men and I never was uncomfortable or fearful sharing a bathroom with them. In fact one of my childhood buddies was gay and he and several of the other boys from the neighborhood I grew up in used to go “skinny dipping’ in a local pond with him. It never worried us. I know other people that are gay or lesbian and it doesn’t concern me.
I don’t currently favor coed showers or locker rooms in schools though because of the nudity that is present in them. This would be especially problematic in these places because most people of that age haven’t developed the maturity to be in close proximity to naked members of the opposite sex. As society matures and we become more accepting of nudity like many other countries in the world, this might change.
The reason that I predict that mixed-gender multi-user bathrooms will one day be the norm is that the arguments against them are all baseless.