Why Gender-Neutral Bathrooms Aren't Just Important, They're Necessary
The worst thing that I, as a cisgender individual, have to worry about when using a public bathroom is the inexplicably awful aim of those who came before me. Every day, I take for granted the fact that I'll be able to access a bathroom at all, risk-free, which, for transgender and gender-nonconforming people, is not always guaranteed.
In this week's installment of MTV "Braless," host Laci Green breaks down why safe access to gender-neutral bathrooms are a necessity and how our current sex-segregated bathroom model doesn't adequately address everyone's needs. Gender-neutral bathrooms are now a codified thing in Austin, Texas, so why not everywhere else?
If you're unfamiliar with this topic, you might be wondering why people are making such a big deal about bathrooms in the first place. But, remember -- bathrooms have been politicized spaces since, like, forever, and I'm not just talking about former Senator Larry Craig's "wide stance" scandal.
The Transgender Law Center's "Peeing in Peace" resource guide details many of the ways in which the law has affected bathroom access, from the "white vs. colored" racial segregation under Jim Crow to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which, among other things, guarantees accessible public bathrooms to all citizens regardless of ability.
The guide also highlights how dividing our bathrooms along a male/female binary is politicized, as well. The division outright denies individuals who don't identify as male or female a designated safe space to relieve themselves. It also opens up trans and gender-nonconforming people to discriminatory gender-policing by the bathroom's other occupants.
The TLC's guide cites a 2002 survey conducted by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission that reveals that nearly 50 percent of respondents reported being harassed or assaulted in a public bathroom. A Williams Institute study from 2013 further states that the likelihood for such transphobic discrimination increases depending on the race and/or income level of the individual.
As a survival tactic, many trans and gender-nonconforming people avoid situations in which they'd have to use sex-segregated public bathrooms altogether, which excludes them from so many places (cafés! movie theaters! workplaces!) that cisgender people access on a daily basis and rarely think twice about.
Nobody should be denied full participation in public life -- or the basic biological human right to relieve themselves -- but until safe access to bathrooms, gender-neutral or otherwise, can be guaranteed for all, that will continue to be the case.