Look, I’ll be blunt with you. I have IBD. Bathrooms are, you should pardon the expression, serious shit to me. I hoard toilet paper in the fear that one day I’ll be caught without, and be too sick to go to the store. I keep my bathroom as inviting a place as possible, because there’s a risk I’ll be seeing it a lot, any particular day.
It sucks, but there it is: this is a chronic illness, and being in remission doesn’t mean I’ll always BE in remission.
Bathrooms are important to me, okay?
So when people talk about restricting (especially women’s) bathrooms, or “policing” them to make sure that only the “right” people go in there, or – here’s a favorite – “oh my god the bathroom’s multi-gender, it’s not safe for the ladies!” I kind of…well, I lose my shit.
It’s already hard enough, using a public restroom when you’re female. There are never enough stalls, half the time the sinks aren’t working or they’re out of soap, and the lighting and mirrors in there would give a supermodel self-doubts. And when we have to share a single bathroom with guys…well, men, some of you are slobs, that’s all there is to it. Also, your aim isn’t as good as you think it is. No, seriously.
But do you know what isn’t a general concern? Someone in the stall next to me, using a penis to pee with.
Look, I realize many of you are gently-bred males who haven’t been in a women’s bathroom since your momma was still helping you go potty, and you have no idea what Really Goes On In There. So I’ll tell you. After sometimes having to wait in line, we go into the first available stall. We do whatever it is we came in to do – be it pee, shit, change our tampon, or switch clothing, whatever. And then we flush (ideally) and go to the sink to wash our hands, maybe fix our makeup or hair, if needed, and then we leave. We might say a word or two to someone else at the sink, we might not. If we’re there with other women we know, there may be actual conversation. Sometimes we brush our teeth, if we’re coming off a long flight or bus ride. Often, we tell another woman there if her slip is showing, or her skirt is tucked up in back (it happens) or if there’s TP on her shoe.
You know what we care about, while we’re there? That you don’t linger when there’s a line, that you flush and wash your hands after, and if need be, you call an attendant if there’s something wrong with one of the toilets.
You know what we don’t care about? What you’re peeing from.
And maybe I’m an idealist (there’s a first time for everything) but I need to believe that most guys feel the same. Yeah, I know that guys have the whole Urinal Trough Issues to deal with. I have a news flash for y’all: you spend more time not-looking at each other than any straight woman would. Dicks really aren’t that fascinating when being used for that function (certain kinks excepted, and the odds of you running into that are low unless you’re somewhere the odds are intentionally higher). And if it really is such a stressful thing for you, use a stall! Nobody’s going to think less of you. Yeah it might take a minute longer to get in and out, but it also might be that taking that extra moment in private, without having to worry about performance masculinity, could make your entire day better. You never know: give it a try.
I mean, most of us, unless we’ve led a cloistered life, have shared bathrooms with someone of another gender before. Maybe a parent or a sibling, maybe a roommate or a partner, maybe just the person in the stall next to you in your dorm (my sophomore year, we had to vote on if we’d have segregated or mixed bathrooms, two on each floor. By the end of the year, laziness generally won out over prudery).
Mostly, people seem to have a “shit and let shit” philosophy.
As for unisex bathrooms, and the great “oh there might be a creeper there!” fears some folk have been stirring up? What the fuck makes you think creepers are only in the bathrooms? Jesus wept, we deal with them every day in public: under stairwells and in store aisles, on the subway and buses, in the office and on the street. And you know what? It’s not transfolk who’re the problem*.
Let’s face it, the real worry in unisex bathrooms is the idea that we’re not supposed to make bodily function noises in earshot of each other. God forbid the cute girl or hot guy – or worse yet, the older individual who might be your grandparent – might fart, or groan, be dealing with cramps, or have diarrhea in the semi-privacy of their own stall. Trust me: we’d rather be home and utterly private, too. But having a stall open and available, no matter who is next to us, is a much higher priority than waiting for privacy.
And the next time you get hit with a case of food poisoning while in public, you’re going to feel exactly the same. And if the only bathroom is not marked for your gender? Send someone in to check if it’s okay, and then grab the first stall you can. Your health and comfort is a hell of a lot more important than someone else’s knickers getting twisted because your genitals don’t look the same as theirs.
In short, whatever emotional or cultural hangups you may have about who is peeing next to you, remember that that’s all they are: hangups. Being properly potty-trained is about wiping and washing, not policing and panicking.
*And btw, if you’re really worried about our safety in the bathroom? Never make a crack about “women going to the bathroom in packs.” Because did you ever think that there’s a reason we don’t travel alone? No? Maybe you should. Again: it’s not transfolk who are the problem.