In her piece “Making Bathrooms More Accommodating,” Emily Bazelon argues that we need to revisit our understanding of bathrooms to create more inclusive spaces. For hundreds of years, men and women have been operating on arbitrary social rules that dictate what toilets you can and can’t use, but the increased visibility of transgender and non-binary people are challenging these traditions. Accommodations can be a good place to start, but it cannot be where we end this bathroom revolution.
The bathrooms that we know today subliminally exclude entire groups of people and perpetuate antiquated social constructs. Recently, society has become more aware of gender as a spectrum and a choice rather than a rigid binary of just men and women. Logically, the design of bathrooms would follow suit and transition away from this strict gendering. Unfortunately, the public is not a logical beast. Precedents rooted in the Victorian Era that mandated separate restroom facilities for men and women have held fast in our culture: “Many people viscerally resist the idea of mixing male and female anatomy in multistall bathrooms and locker rooms” (2). The signs on the door dictating two gender options confront people who don’t identify either one and force them to make a choice that fundamentally conflicts with their being. Additionally, transgender individuals are coerced into following their assigned gender instead of the ones they have chosen for themselves because of the societal fear of anatomy mixing that Bazelon cites.
Although some schools and businesses have provided bathroom accommodations to be more inclusive of these marginalized groups, it isn’t enough. Unisex bathrooms in addition to those labeled for men and women are equivalent to putting a band-aid on a bullet wound; it’s a short-term fix for a problem that requires a much more substantial solution. Bathrooms have become such a contentious issue for transgender and non-binary people because they want a sense of belonging, but these detached and isolated accommodations can be even more alienating. Bazelon uses the example of a twelve year-old transgender girl to whom “the locker room and the bathroom are about joining the all-female enclave” (10). She wants to be with her peers rather than separated from them; the controversy around bathrooms prevents her from feeling completely secure in her community.
We must move towards gender-neutral bathrooms as a way of creating a positive space for everyone. While it may be a mental hurdle some may find difficult to pass, it is a simple change we can make to remove a burden from the people that are hurt by unnecessarily gendered spaces. Accommodations may be fine for the interim, but they are not the end goal because they cannot resolve the underlying issue. Transgender and non-binary people deserve to be included.
Bazelon, Emily. “Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating’.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2015. Web. 28 Oct. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/magazine/making-bathrooms-more-accommodating.html?_r=1>.