In “Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating,’” Emily Bazelon makes a number of cases in favor of bathrooms being inclusive for all– including people who identify as transgender. She addresses the issue of the binary bathroom system that has been previously implemented through recent legislature and stories from individuals while additionally providing examples of ways this can be and has been combatted. Additionally, she ruminates of the issues of the word “accommodation” itself, claiming it sets up a “distinction between the normal and the other” (Bazelon).
Bazelon begins her article by discussing the difficulty many people had addressing the gender binary bathroom issue. She mentions the discomfort created on both sides when people asked (or even just wondered) if people were in the “correct” bathroom. She goes on further to mention the rejection of a “broad, equal rights ordinance in Houston” (later known as the “bathroom ordinance,”) where lawmakers voted against legislation allowing for people to enter bathrooms based on their gender identity vs. the gender that was assigned to them at birth (City of Houston). This could be a result of the hyper-conservative mindset of Houston as a whole, whereas lawmakers reflect the views of their constituents. A similar situation was created in North Carolina with the implementation of the “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act,” a discriminatory law allowing for the denial of entry into public restrooms unless the user is of the same gender identity as their birth certificate. Many have condemned the implementation of the latter, citing its discriminatory and socially regressive nature, including activists and politicians.
Despite this blatant discrimination by state legislation in multiple states, some efforts have been successful in making bathrooms more inclusive. Bazelon cites an incident where a transgender student was denied access to shower with her peers at school by her school district in Illinois. The U.S. Department of Education required the district to allow the girl to shower with her peers. Bazelon also mentions how a simple “privacy curtain” could fix this problem of discomfort created amongst peers in bathrooms. If everyone were able to dress and undress behind a piece of fabric obstructing the view of others, then the problem of intrusiveness is eliminated.
Even though efforts are being made to “ accommodate” for transgender persons across the country, part of the problem could be the word “accommodate” itself. “It often sets up the distinction between the normal and the other,” states Bazelon. It could be argued that a distinction needs to be made in order to satisfy politicians on the more conservative end of the spectrum, while making sure the rights of transgender people are met in the Constitution.
Looking at the bigger picture, even women’s restrooms are disadvantaged. Starting in the Victorian era with the birth the Industrial Revolution, where women more often found themselves in the workplaces that used to be dominated by men, bathrooms were created separating men and women (Bazelon). However, women often have to wait significantly longer than men in the bathroom, considering women only have stalls while men have the luxury of urinals to get in and out of the bathroom quickly. Another form of accommodation could take place in the form adding more stalls to women’s restrooms proportional to the number of stalls/urinals in the men’s room.
Barring the efforts of conservative state legislators trying to deny transgender accessibility to the bathroom of their gender preference, many progressive efforts have been made to ensure LGBT rights are not encroached on. Bazelon’s concerns of the word “accommodation” itself seem unfounded, because it implies inclusion, regardless of the frame of thought that it implies “normal” people going out of the way of “other” people. The point is, we are moving towards a more inclusive, “accommodating” society.