In the article University Students Push For Gender-Neutral Washrooms For Transgendered Peers On Campus the author talks about, obviously, gender-neutral washrooms. While the intent is admirable I can see some problems with this.
The first problem is the location. This is a big one. Are there enough of them? If the gender-neutral washrooms are not convenient they will add stress to the people they are intended for. The article Jennifer Braly gets University of Arkansas Fort Smith’s bathroom policy changed talks about Jennifer Braly’s successful struggle to use women’s washrooms. The article states “Tired of walking across campus to find a unisex bathroom, she contacted the Department of Justice.” So, in order for gender-neutral washrooms to work they have to be handy.
I can see other problems with gender-neutral washrooms if they are put in place to satisfy the needs of transgendered people. One such problem is, if they are handy to the male and female washrooms then they may result in labelling those who use it as transsexual or transgender. In a mall or shopping centre they are called family washrooms and would not create a difficulty. But in a university there might be a problem.
If the gender-neutral washroom is located somewhere else then it will be really gender-neutral with is great, right? Think about it for a moment. Gender-neutral washrooms are normally single stall. If this washroom is convenient for transsexuals it will be convenient for everyone else. Being single-use it will become less convenient for anyone if there is a line up during a break between classes.
Then there is a problem for the transsexual person. When one transitions they are changing from one sex to another. Adding a gender-neutral washroom could be considered as making them male, female and other. Are transsexuals to be considered other? No they are not. When I started transitioning I used a gender-neutral washroom at work because I wanted to be reasonable. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that if I’m a woman I should be using the women’s washroom and I did.
Some of the comments I’ve read on these articles can be encouraging but some are just plain evil. One comment that comes up frequently is if a woman like Ms Braly is allowed to use the women’s washroom, what is to stop a man from wearing a dress and going into the washroom and assaulting women, to expose themself or to be a “peeping Tom”? The answer is the law. Wearing a dress in the woman’s washroom does not give anyone special rights to break the law. All it allows them to do is use the washroom just like any other woman.
One person questioned if it really mattered which washroom they used. The commenter went on to suggest that women would be more uncomfortable using the washroom at the same time as transgender or transsexual people. I suspect they may be more uncomfortable than men but the one who is most likely uncomfortable would be the transgender/transsexual person.
Until our society smartens up, a transgender or transsexual person has a good chance of being harassed in whatever sex-specific washroom they decide to use. While a TS/TG woman has a greater chance of encountering violence if they use the men’s washroom, there is still a chance of violence in the woman’s as it did in a Baltimore County McDonald’s.