by Communications Intern: Hiwot Adilow
When I’m in a public space and find myself needing to use the facilities, the most thinking I have to do is about which left to take and around what corner. Once I find the restrooms, I walk into the one marked “Women’s” without hesitation. And because I do not defy what society deems “woman” I am not approached with glares or rude remarks by other bathroom patrons. Using public restrooms should not have to be an emotional choice. For me it isn’t but my trans* identified friends live in a different reality.
When faced with the need to use the bathroom, for trans*folk, it isn’t a simple question of directions. They have to deeply consider their safety which calls for a lot of thinking. They are often forced to consider the comfort of total strangers who may be offended by their presence. In an open letter entitled “Dear Lady in the Women’s Washroom,” Ivan Coyote writes, “I am hyper aware of which bathroom I am in…[If] I have chosen to enter a public washroom in spite of my long and arduous history with them, I have taken the time to note which door I am about to walk into, and I am confident I have chosen the lesser of two evils. For many in the trans* community, this long and arduous history includes sexual and physical assault. Sometimes choosing between the “Men” and “Women’s” restrooms is a choice is between an uncomfortable look and a fight.
Some arguments against all gender bathrooms in public spaces include the notion that women who have been sexually assaulted will be uncomfortable. The issue of sexual assault is not a light one, but according to Izzy Rode of Slate.com, “conceding the fight for neutralization ignores the fact that sexual assault can—and more importantly does—occur among members of every gender.”
The presence of unisex, gender neutral, and single stall restrooms in public spaces is a step towards the right direction. By providing these options, people who do not fall into the binary are not forced to compromise their identities or their safety.