BQ: What Bathroom Should I Use?

 “Nature loves diversity and it’s human beings who have an awful time with it” ~ Diagnosing Difference 

Today’s documentary, Diagnosing Difference, highlighted the various subtle stigmas that are overlooked by society in the discourse surrounding the transsexual question. Like many other societal problems that are so often defined by their huge, general and overarching stereotypes, the problems associated with transgender people are no different. We try to categorize them based on their outward appearance or we assume that they want to be in either binary category. Neither of these strategies or tendencies will be fruitful in improving the social conditions and cultural environment of transgender issues. Today’s class focused on medical care and the steps taken by the medical community to define transgender no longer as a mental disorder but as a less stigmatized condition. We need to find an outlet in order for everyone to have affordable and available access to any resources they may need.

However, I think an interesting issue to look at—that was also addressed in the documentary—is the question of the binary gender categorization.  Why should choosing a bathroom in a public park by the source of an existential crisis for anybody? Merely looking at the stick figures often depicted on the door: a skirt means the girl and the legs mean the boy raise a red flag when observed by a critical eye. However, in answering my big question I need to highlight a paradox. As somebody who identifies as a woman, I personally feel uncomfortable with the idea of going into a bathroom marked for men. Walking down the street I feel objectified almost every single day, and there is no way I will put myself alone with a male stranger in a secluded area. Therefore, in order to protect my own sexual comfort I do not agree with the idea of a unisex bathroom. My unpopular opinion renders an unpopular compromise; three bathrooms are perhaps necessary as a potential solution. Yet, therein lies another contradiction. We have thus created three categories: the men’s room, the ladies room, and the arbitrary unisex or gender-neutral room. I wonder if this has the potential to become another binary with which we measure our identities.

Moreover, this problem can be connected back to the college experience and the recent discussions about sexual abuse in college. More specifically cat calling and the question of men treating women. Many colleges are debating incorporating hours at the gym that are strictly female. Personally, I would be extremely pro this; however, of course we must then beg the question who are we excluding? Who are we punishing?

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2 thoughts on “BQ: What Bathroom Should I Use?

  1. sabg1992

    I completely agree with the points addressed in this blog post because it raises something that I have struggled answering myself – How do we create fairness for everyone? When I attended the Queer Method Conference, the bathrooms in the Penn Museum were relabeled with signs that read “Gender Neutral.” The signs completely covered the former bathroom classification so that I couldn’t even venture to guess which one was “Men” and which one was “Women.” As I stared at the two signs, I decided to venture a guess and chose the bathroom to my left. Upon entering I immediately noticed the urinals and felt a sneaking sense of discomfort. Since I was attending a Queer Method Conference I thought I should at least be open to the idea of using a bathroom that was also used by men, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. I eventually walked to what was originally known as the women’s bathroom. I thought a lot about why I felt uncomfortable using that bathroom and I realized what you clearly stated, “Walking down the street I feel objectified almost every single day, and there is no way I will put myself alone with a male stranger in a secluded area.” My discomfort was inextricably tied to safety; it has been ingrained in me by my parents that I should never put myself in situations that would make me feel potentially uncomfortable, such as using what is usually known as a men’s bathroom. However, is that how a transgendered person feels when he/she goes to use the bathroom? Do they struggle with deciding where they feel most comfortable? If this is the case, as it certainly appears to be, whose comfort/safety is more important? As you mentioned, if we specified, one men’s, one women’s and one gender neutral, that is still categorizing intersex or transgendered people. How do we possibly remedy the problem? As we’ve both realized it seems a solution to create a fair environment for every single individual is extremely and unfortunately difficult. However I do feel that at least adding one “Gender Neutral” bathroom is a positive step towards dispelling discrimination and prejudice because its presence at least recognizes that not all people identify strictly as a man or as a female.

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  2. gficeraigarland

    I found this post very insightful, especially in its consideration of two very different view points. As someone who also identifies as a woman, I too would feel uncomfortable being alone with a man in an unmonitored, secluded area. But does this mean that transgender or gender queer people should have to be grouped together so that I may feel comfortable? Additionally, why should the fact that I identify as a cisgender woman give me privilege over a transgender person? While it is common for society to only cater to the norms, the comfort of all gender identities must be taken into account.

    In response to the last paragraph of your post, it is a shame that things like female only gym hours are needed. The fact that women, or people who appear to be female, are harassed is a manifestation of rape culture. It is a shame that young girls and boys must learn from a young age that rape is a very real and present danger. Sometimes, though, I wonder what the effect of rape culture is on men who have never and will never rape, who work to thwart rape culture and who respect women. I often feel myself panic when in a situation alone with a man, an almost instinctual reaction. Is this reaction unfair or simply practical? Is fear of men necessary for our (both men’s and women’s) safety? Whatever the reason, it is undoubtedly a result of living in a culture plagued by violence and sexual assault.

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