theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

A guy asked this about a convention where several boy/girl bathrooms were temporarily repurposed into unisex bathrooms. (Not all of them – you could still find your standard male/female pooping places if you were uncomfortable.)

And I’ve been thinking about that question. “Why do we need unisex bathrooms?”

Because the answer is blazingly simple if you’ve attended Penguicon: look around that convention’s room parties, and you’ll see a fair number of genderqueer and trans and cross-dressing attendees. Some of them go to conventions specifically to have a weekend where they can relax and present as whatever gender they choose and not get hassled about it.

Going to the bathroom and deciding which box to check is, presumably, a buzzkill for these people on an otherwise-supportive weekend. Hence the unisex bathrooms.

But that’s not the question the guy was asking.

He used “we,” but he meant “he.” As in, “Why do I need a unisex bathroom?” And being a cis dude who dresses like a dude, he didn’t see any need for them. As such, he concluded the convention was doing stupid things for stupid reasons.

Which was a stupid conclusion, alas.

Because this addled man’s affected with a sad disease that can strike at anyone, but tends to afflict straight cis men: They have forgotten the difference between “we” and “me.”

I personally don’t need unisex bathrooms either. But when I ask the question, “Why do we need unisex bathrooms?”, I am capable of looking around to more than my experience and doing the elementary deduction work required to uncover why. Sometimes I even ask other people than myself and the people who look like me.

Why do we need unisex bathrooms? Because not everyone’s you, dude. I have never once attended a panel discussing gun safety or libertarian philosophy, but if someone asked me the question, “Why do we need those panels?” you bet your bippie I’d pull my head out of my neon-rimmed ass and look around to other people before answering the question.

Solipsism’s a helluva drug.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

Date: 2017-05-05 03:02 pm (UTC)
klgaffney: the pattern of a moth's wing forms the eye in a close up of a skull. (the unbiased eye)
From: [personal profile] klgaffney
One of the things I like about hitting the bars in Philly--all the bathrooms are unisex. It saves the businesses space and it also usually means the doors to the stalls tend to be actual doors which provide privacy which means everyone benefits (the one exception from our last night out was the Kyber Pass, but the Kyber is really old and from what I remember from way back in my 20's, nobody really cared which bathrooms you went to back then, as long as you didn't care what you might see when you went there.)

It's not like most people have special gendered bathrooms at home so I don't see what the big deal is.

Date: 2017-05-05 03:37 pm (UTC)
elf: Mozzie with Bonsai (Minimalistic)
From: [personal profile] elf
The difference is, at home, a creepy date almost never tries to follow you into the bathroom.

However, gendered bathrooms as sanctuary is a solution to a problem that would not exist if society as a whole, and bar staff in particular, were actually willing to enforce laws about harassment.

I'd like unisex bathrooms in general; I'd also like some thought put into addressing the few problems they'd exacerbate. (Those problems are not, "trans women will creep on cis women," which is what the "enforce gender lines" politicians all claim. Strangers of any gender are not the problem.)

However, "people need to pee in peace" is a much higher-level problem than "people sometimes need a respite from an opposite-sex harasser," for which "gendered space" is not supposed to be the solution.

Date: 2017-05-05 04:13 pm (UTC)
klgaffney: photo detail of an alpha romeo car dashboard (ymmv - your mileage may vary.)
From: [personal profile] klgaffney
"People need to pee in peace" must necessarily also cover the whole opposite-sex harasser situation--a lot of unisex bathrooms are just single bathrooms with locking doors, so following someone in would not be easy. And well, it's Philly--same-sex harassment is almost as likely.

(TBH I don't think I've ever fled to a bathroom to flee someone harassing me tho, nor do I advise others to do so, including my girls. That's... a small space with no other exit, which just screams 'trap' to me. I always stayed at the bar/where the other people were at and handled it from there.)

Date: 2017-05-05 04:29 pm (UTC)
elf: Red & blue faces (Face Off)
From: [personal profile] elf
I haven't either; I gather it's a common refuge in some communities for a certain kind of date - not the ultra-creepy actually-feels-dangerous type, but the "I need three minutes alone so I can call my friend to pick me up, so I can cut this date short without it getting creepier" type.

Angel shots are much better solution to those problems, but those require participation from the bar staff.

I'm not meaning to say, "but if we fixed this problem, this other problem would get worse, so maybe we shouldn't!" I am saying, fixing the gendered-bathrooms problems would remove support for situations that rely on them; I can only think of a small number of such situations but there might be more; and we should be looking for solutions to those problems as well. We should definitely be looking for, "what would likely change as a result of this, and who else would that affect?"

Because I want this change, and I want it to work smoothly and well. I don't want a few places to try it, run into a snag, and declare "this isn't working because of X; we're going back to the old way."

Date: 2017-05-05 05:22 pm (UTC)
klgaffney: A door painted with text: PLEASE do not block these doors. Unless we say: "oh alright then just this once." (more what you'd call "guidelines"...)
From: [personal profile] klgaffney
Ah okay, I understand where you're coming from. *considers* I really only have Philly to go on*, but the unisex bathroom layouts I saw there wouldn't necessarily stop someone from retreating to make that kind of call, mostly because they make up the difference by being fairly private spaces (also quite surprisingly roomy, for accessibility reasons. There's definitely design lessons that could be learned by examining Philly bars. Who knew?).

Texting can be sneakily done from anywhere; I'd even suggest creating a draft of a text beforehand and just making it look like you're checking your messages--with one button push, text is sent. I mean, even if you don't use it, it seems like it'd work as a security blanket. And there's always the old 'Sorry, I have to take this call' and stepping out to do so.

Other situations, well, I don't know, someone would have to put the problems out there to be solved, I guess. The bartenders seem to be uniformly friendly/helpful every place I've been, but I can't speak for the clubs, I mostly haunt bars and craft beer/whiskey places. Clubs have always been a problem and I don't think I'd meet anybody I didn't already know for a date in a dancehall/club. I also cannot fairly report on the bathroom situation in the average club, but in Philly the whole unisex bathroom thing is actually law, and tbf, it's one of those things that almost organically arose out of the culture that's already in place.

*ok and NYC but there I often found that there's literally one tiny bathroom usually for staff and paying customers only, so unisex by default

Date: 2017-05-05 06:01 pm (UTC)
elf: Red & blue faces (Face Off)
From: [personal profile] elf
One of the issues that would need to be dealt with is existing places with split-gender bathrooms - if they just changed the signs from (M) or (F) to M/F, but didn't change anything else... guys would use the ones with urinals and fewer stalls; women would use the ones with more stalls, and "everyone would know" which room was "really" for men and which was "really" for women - it wouldn't be enforceable by law, but the social constraints could be almost as strict.

Without mandating a whole lot of expensive changes, many bars/clubs/etc. (many schools, for that matter) would change the signs and nothing else would change - and bullying and social policing might even increase. (I don't see an easy way around that, no matter what happens; I'm brainstorming and trying to think of, "say we get the law we want... what happens next?" And some of the "next" is going to be ugly because a lot of bigots are going to be very unhappy with the new legal situation. I'm trying to think of ways to avoid giving them ammo for "see, it's not working!" attacks.)

I'm in California; I always thought the gendered labels on bathrooms were a suggestion thing rather than a legal thing. (I think they are here; I was surprised to find out that in some states, it's against the law to enter a "wrong sex" bathroom. Women here sometimes use the men's bathrooms when the line is too long.) A lot of larger public places - movie theatres and hotels - often have M, W, and Family bathrooms, with logos for two genders, small kids, and a wheelchair.

I don't think I'd meet anybody I didn't already know for a date in a dancehall/club.

Me neither, but I'm not a college student trying very hard to fit in, and not a single mom who very much misses having a social life away from childcare. I'm also not living in a small town where the nearest "real date" place is 30 miles away. I would, and have, met people in coffee shops that I only knew from online. (Nobody I met in person from online has ever turned out to be problematic. I don't know if I'm lucky, have good judgment, or just don't hang out online where the creeps are.)

I don't think gendered bathrooms are the right fix for "date turned unexpectedly creepy" or "omg my evil ex just entered the club;" I just know that currently, bathrooms are used as a refuge in cases like those.

There may not be a solution beyond "better preparation, and bar/club staff needs to be willing to do something about creeps."

Date: 2017-05-05 06:37 pm (UTC)
klgaffney: Detail of a painting of a couple; a girl held close to an anthropomorphic wolf in a hat and suit. (context is important)
From: [personal profile] klgaffney
*nodnod* Yeah, I don't know what the city is doing about the pre-existing gendered bathrooms other beyond what everyone was already doing, which was just refusing to police who went where. The one place I went to did what you mentioned, replaced all the signs with M/F. The Family ones I've seen at the shore more recently, but I don't believe I saw them before living in CA for a while. I think it's the 'against the law' thing that is the big battle right now.

I'm not saying that it's horrible/wrong to meet a stranger at a club; the club scene may have evolved just like the bars, but I wouldn't know 'cause I haven't experienced any recently. I got a bit OT. But--even so, my last experiences involved a different world/context/language-and-assumption set, even from my bar experiences during the same time period, which is one of the something else I'd have to take into account. Meeting people in coffee shops is a much different experience; a bar or coffee shop is/was typically my goto for meeting strangers and even when it's turned out badly, I've either been able to request assistance, assistance has been offered, I could handle it myself, or whatever--end result was walking away okay (again with more than my fair share of luck or whatever. I was very much a creep magnet--or well, I was a kid running around in a bullshit decade when being a creep was still at least borderline acceptable.).

I really do think the solution lies in bar/club staff having policies in place and being prepared to do something about creeps, like every other workplace should require. But then, my bias is that everyone should be prepared to deal with creeps and monsters (their own or someone else's), because unfortunately, creeps happen. And that alone would not only go so far towards making the bathroom thing moot, but it would help with so many more potential issues, too.

Date: 2017-05-06 05:47 pm (UTC)
arlie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] arlie
I'm also in California, and was surprised to discover that a fast food restaurant I occassionally visit had quietly changed the signs on their two single stall bathrooms to indicate that they were both unisex. I had used the "wrong" gender one occassionally, when there was a long wait for the "right" one, but I can't recall whether they'd changed anything inside it.

In any case, I haven't had a wait since, so I'd be in favour just for the more efficient queuing even without any other issues. (And how's that for a selfish, think-only-of-myself type of argument.)

Like others, I'm not sure how large, multi-stall bathrooms would play out in practice. It worked fine when I was in college, but there was a rather exreme lack of total strangers in the bathrooms of newly co-ed dormitories. Also, women appear to have taken the initiative in liberating the bathrooms - in aging, previously all female dorms which were still mostly inhabited by females, and the male-designated bathrooms were brand new and thus in far better condition than the female-designated ones. (No one was talking much about TG issues in those ancient days; the salient issue in this case was equity.)

There's no reason a person cannot behave badly towards members of the same gender category in a uni-sex bathroom, but a lot of us have far more expectation [and fear] of cross gender misbehaviour, particularly males misbehaving towards females. (And FWIW, on the same campus there were issues with males invading female-labelled bathrooms in more public buildings with sexual assault in mind, leading to women needing to get a key or combination from library staff in order to visit "their" bathroom.)

Date: 2017-05-06 03:19 am (UTC)
finding_helena: Girl staring off into the distance. Text from "River of Dreams" by Billy Joel (Default)
From: [personal profile] finding_helena
I don't think that having unisex bathrooms with multiple stalls and sinks is a particularly great idea and this is one reason why. But I'm all for unisex one-at-a-time bathrooms, and have treated them that way in the past in a pinch. I've gone into the men's a time or two, and at this one local restaurant we've been to, only the women's room has a changing table, so a few times my husband has gone in there to change a kid.

Date: 2017-05-06 09:07 am (UTC)
marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)
From: [personal profile] marahmarie
Huh, I spent a lot of time in high school doing just that (I had a male tormenter who really just...was tormenting me, mostly in the halls, for a few years, so sometimes to escape him I'd duck into the ladies bathroom, then turn around and give him the finger (it had two entrances and no outer doors) from within the safety of it. He couldn't do anything about it (or, at least, he chose not to, as the room was usually packed with other girls between classes)).

So having a gendered room did come in handy for me. That said, if a public ladies room is being cleaned or is just overflowing, wherever I am, 9 times out of 10 I'll just duck into the men's room and could not care less what anyone else might think. I don't think I'd mind if men did the reverse (though I don't think I've seen it done) as long as I didn't feel creeped out by their behavior.
Edited (parentheses) Date: 2017-05-06 09:16 am (UTC)

Date: 2017-05-05 10:12 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] serakit
Thank you for the fact of mentioning the "creepy date follows you into bathroom" thing; I was beginning to think I was the only one who felt that way! There are definitely environments, many many environments, where I think the gender-neutral bathrooms should be "in addition to" rather than "instead of". (There's a local fetish event where I either go for the gendered bathrooms or go into the unisex ones with my male partner, because going into unisex ones alone means people will be creepy and threatening at me.)


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