Some Ways of Discussing Gender Restroom Issues
Do you have an opinion on the topic of gender restroom access that is currently burning through the United States political landscape like wildfire? I don’t dwell on things like this too much in my daily life (let’s be honest, until recently you didn’t either), but this issue is so publicized and hotly debated, at this point it is almost impossible to not have some kind of thoughts on it. I do not profess to have a right/wrong answer, or any answer at all regarding this issue, but I wanted to at least share some of my thoughts on the topic with the understanding that I believe that discrimination of any kind that allows one person to have an unfair advantage over another is fundamentally unethical and immoral. I do not however, find much wrong with classifying people in ways that a culture deems acceptable, to allow for peaceful and organized movement of the population through day-to-day life.
Here are a few of my thoughts on this topic:
Maybe our criteria are outdated
Has it ever occurred to you that assigning restrooms to a specific sex or gender may not be the best way to provide a way to excrete waste or shower and change clothes without having to argue about it? What if the standard male and female designations just aren’t going to work anymore. So many areas of our lives are now inclusive to all people, maybe it’s time to simplify restroom and locker room designations as well. Maybe the idea that boys and girls should be separated based on their own self-assignment criteria isn’t the way to go. Then again maybe it is. I don’t know the answer, but the overarching idea of updating the system of restroom assignment options is something to think about.
Does sex or gender matter more than genitalia?
This is an important question to me. I also think this distinction could be important to a lot of people. For example, do you actually care what gender someone identifies as, or are you actually just concerned with what type of organ rests between their legs? In my mind, one way to look at the issue is to forego any designation based gender and simply assign restrooms based on a person’s current type of genitalia. If you are a woman who had a penis attached to your body, go to the penis restroom. If you were born a man, but identify as a woman, and had a sex change that currently finds you sporting a brand spanking new vagina, then by all means feel free to use the vagina restroom. No line of thinking is completely correct, but I honestly don’t see a problem with this line of thinking, and maybe not even for the reasons you may suspect. Restroom and locker room design is somewhat dependent on the way people use the restroom. Restrooms where people have vaginas tend to have a lot more sit down toilet options whereas restrooms where penises are the norm tend to have wall mounted urinals. Real estate is pricey and businesses need to maximize their space so knowing what type of hardware is nesting between a person’s legs allows designers to use the available space wisely instead of creating multiple bathrooms with tons of options for anyone and everyone. As long as I have a place to pee, shower and change clothes without being insulted or abused, I’m fine and I think this is just about all we should expect from a place that we take a poop in. My expectations seem pretty low here I know, but I’m talking about washing my underarms and urinating here, not picking out my future spouse from a lineup of people present. As long as everyone has an available option where they can have respect of space and access to needed facilities, I don’t see what would matter more than that in this type of setting.
Are 100% inclusive restroom and locker room options really that bad?
Some people think so and as far as I’m concerned, every person’s viewpoint is valid. The point that I do not get is the one about potential molestation of children by someone of a different sex who claims to identify as the other gender in order to use that restroom and sexually prey on people. Of course, I can see where a parent would not want their child being looked at in the restroom by a person of the opposite sex who claims to identify with that gender. But there could just as easily be a person of the same sex in the restroom right now doing the exact same thing and that parent may not even realize it. In fact, I’d bet this is the more likely situation. This issue doesn’t fly far with me because a parent should parent and a guardian should guard, especially in situations that involve the type of interaction that you find in restrooms and locker rooms. Go into the restroom or locker room with your kid! That should be a no-brainer! You pick up your dog’s poop and put it into a baggie and carry it to a disposal container but you don’t attend your child when they are in a locker room changing clothes among strangers? It is also important to note that a lot of sexual abuse is perpetrated by people known to the child so parents should be aware of their children’s surroundings at all times. My point is, you don’t get to be a lazy and inattentive parent and also complain about how someone else should create a system so you don’t have to personally care for your child. Anyone who thinks that sex classification protects someone from sexual prey or abuse is absolutely nuts. There are more than enough concrete instances of same sex predators out there to debunk any notion that it would be any more dangerous for someone in a mixed-sex locker room than in a single sex locker room. I personally wouldn’t care if someone who is biologically different from me was changing in my locker room but can understand that many people would and I respect that position. I just think that recognition of different sexual organs is a much better way to direct people where to take a pee than is a gender designation. Here’s why…
Maybe we should clarify restrooms assigned by sex versus gender
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides us with the following definitions:
: the state of being male or female
: men or male animals as a group or women or female animals as a group
: physical activity in which people touch each other’s bodies, kiss each other, etc. : physical activity that is related to and often includes sexual intercourse
- : the state of being male or female
It is pretty commonly held in the scientific community that the word “sex” identifies an organism’s biology as being male or female and “gender” as a state of being which may be up for interpretation. Many discussions I’ve heard on this issue fail to identify which of these are actually being considered and discussed. More often than not people use these words interchangeably which cannot be done when one is discussing the intricacies of the issue. You can see by the definitions above that these two words can mean the same thing depending on how they are used. But when we are talking about specifics and details it is shown by the above definitions that the word “sex” is a much more specific way of identifying an organism than is the word “gender.” It may be an option to simply state that this restroom is for the female sex or male sex if you want to ensure a biologically based separation. Or you might clarify that this locker room is for people of the male or female gender which would provide for a more broadly defined, subjective, and personal preference based on whether someone feels male or feels female. Either way is fine I would think as long as you make the distinction known. This provides a potential user with the ability to understand the designations and gives them the ability to make choices based on those criteria. If someone is not capable of understanding the very clear difference between sex and gender, if the difference is clearly stated and properly displayed, than they really are not be in a position to scrutinize with any amount of authority although I do respect their opinion on the matter.
Our society made multiple distinctions for movie ratings a number of years ago and segmented the population who could access a given movie based on age. This classification system has so many options that it requires a chart to explain the options adequately – but we still use it and it works really well. Why should appropriate use of a restroom or locker room be any less detailed? I personally think that a restroom or locker room should be provided for everyone and how it is classified isn’t that important to me although I respect that it may be to others. Can everyone change and take a poop here? If the answer is “yes” then in my opinion, that’s a win! If you have a vagina but identify as male and want to come into the restroom with the other boys, then by all means do so. While I can empathize with any number of positions and opinions on the issue, my personal position on the matter is that I want to pee, poop, shower and change my clothes in this area not worry about what anyone else’s body looks like or is equipped with in relation to mine. If you choose to be concerned with the aspects concerning someone else’s body and life, then by all means you do that, but the restroom or locker room seems like a strange place to bring that type of mentality.
Maybe people should go into whichever area they feel best suits them
I think this is a decent way to approach the matter as well. Of course we’ve discussed just a couple of ways of framing or approaching the issue, but what if we all just let people go where they want to go. If someone is hanging around, leering, stalking or being creepy then that can easily be handled by the people present with a little vigilante justice (not recommended) or can be handled by the authorities who operate the facility when concerned patrons report wrongdoing. However, it’s pretty hard to be a creeper when the majority of people in an area are seeing what you are doing and call you out on it. If poor conduct is allowed to persist then that is an entirely different issue concerning people being responsible for the welfare of their fellow humans and doing what is needed to protect the common good. In the end, I think that this option is pretty solid. In fact, in my personal opinion, I would be perfectly fine with this type of arrangement being the norm.
My thoughts are that most places will eventually adopt this way of operating their restrooms and locker rooms. Eventually this topic will fall off the political radar just as quickly as it came into the spotlight and we will all go on with our lives. Things may be a little different by that time, but I think it will all be for the better and that people who do not appreciate the changes will simply opt to use private restrooms or changing areas of just use those facilities in their own homes of places of business. Regardless of what transpires, this is a relevant topic at this point in history and one that is interesting to discuss and think about. Allow me to wrap this conversation up with this…
No matter who you are, how you identify, or how you choose to live your life, I am respectful of your choices and value the similarities and differences between us.