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Good New Yorker piece on gender and public bathrooms

kenny

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http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/whos-afraid-of-same-sex-bathrooms?mbid=social_facebook

In the middle of taking the bar exam at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, in New York City, along with thousands of aspiring lawyers, I had to go to the bathroom. The enormous line for the women’s restroom looked like it would take at least a half hour. There was no line for the men’s restroom. I walked in, passed my male counterparts at a row of urinals, used one of several empty stalls, then returned to my desk. I felt that my decision to forgo the women’s bathroom made a difference to my passing the exam, and that the much longer wait for women than men during an all-important test for entry to the legal profession was obviously unfair.

There is now, however, an active debate around what bathrooms we should be able to use. A recently proposed Indiana law would make it a crime for a person to enter a single-sex public restroom that does not match the person’s “biological gender,” defined in terms of chromosomes and sex at birth. The punishment could be up to a year in jail and a five-thousand-dollar fine. Similar laws proposed in several other states have not passed. These proposals attempt to counter recent moves in many states to allow transgender people to access bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s same-sex-marriage decision, last summer, these skirmishes may give the sense of moving the L.G.B.T.-equality debate from the sublime to the ridiculous. But the implications of the controversy go far beyond bathrooms.

Last fall’s successful campaign in Houston to reject a broad anti-discrimination ordinance made clear that restrooms will be fields of battle over gender and sexuality for the foreseeable future. The Houston ordinance, which prohibited discrimination in employment and housing based on categories including sex, race, religion, and gender identity, was defeated in a referendum after opponents painted it as a “bathroom ordinance” that would enable men to enter women’s restrooms. One ad in the campaign showed a young girl being followed into a bathroom by an older man. Another ad emphasized the risk of having registered sex offenders in bathrooms with women and girls. The vulnerability that most people feel in a public restroom, with their trousers pulled down in proximity to others, was easily exploited in connection with sexual assault. Saying no to the so-called bathroom ordinance was framed as preventing sexual danger to women and girls (even though danger to transgender individuals is often seen as a reason to support bathroom access).

Today’s most-prominent arguments against inclusive restrooms are remarkably consistent with the Victorian notions that led to sex-segregated bathrooms in the first place. When the ideology of separate spheres for male and female, public and private, the market and the home reigned, the growth of women’s presence in public life led to the desire to protect women from the crude dangers of the male world. Among the legal effects was the 1873 Supreme Court holding in Bradwell v. Illinois that it was not unconstitutional for a state to deny women admission to the bar on the basis of their sex, with a famous concurring opinion that stated, “Man is, or should be, woman’s protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life.” The same separate-spheres paternalism led to the designation of certain physical spaces for women apart from those for men, including bathrooms in public venues. These were safe spaces, if you will, tucked in a world in which women were vulnerable. As our society is currently experiencing a resurgence of paternalist concern about women’s sexual vulnerability—especially in the context of that great equalizer, education—it is no surprise that there would also be a new emphasis on the Victorian phenomenon of separate restrooms.

The connection of public bathrooms with condemned sexual behavior also relates to our recent history of criminalizing homosexuality. For most of the twentieth century, gay sex was criminal, and public disclosure of a man’s homosexuality spelled the death of his reputation and career. Public restrooms were sites of clandestine sex among men, and undercover police engaged in bathroom surveillance to catch men seeking sex in toilet stalls. David Sklansky, a law professor at Stanford, has argued that modern legal ideas of privacy were forged in the nineteen-sixties in part because of the Supreme Court’s distaste for this sordid police practice. According to his theory, bathroom sex is the “secret subtext” of Katz v. United States, which requires the police to have a warrant to eavesdrop electronically on a call made from a telephone booth, and is the source for the modern idea that the Constitution protects a reasonable expectation of privacy. Since Lawrence v. Texas, in 2003, it has been unconstitutional to criminalize gay sex taking place in private, but this protection does not apply to sex (gay or straight) in public spaces. As late as 2007, Senator Larry Craig was arrested in an airport-restroom sex sting for signalling interest in sex with a stranger in an adjacent stall, and convicted of disorderly conduct.

Whereas homosexuality was until recently considered the paradigm of sexual deviance, today’s bathroom debate focusses on heterosexual deviance. The undercover figures we imagine are not snooping cops but rather heterosexual men who might pretend to be women “that day” to follow women and girls into restrooms. I’m not aware of reliable statistics that would indicate that public bathrooms are more sexually dangerous than any other places—or would be, were they to be desegregated—though the history of bathroom sex does associate the space with sexual conduct. Even if the sexual-assault argument against allowing transgender restroom access is implausible, it is still hard to come up with an account of why public bathrooms should be gender-segregated that does not rely on a gendered version of privacy and safety that recapitulates “separate spheres” and sexual vulnerability.

Today, men and women, not assumed to be only heterosexual, are expected to function at work alongside one another, eat at adjacent seats in restaurants, sit cheek by jowl in buses and airplanes, take classes, study in libraries, and, with some exceptions, even pray together. Why is the multi-stall bathroom the last public vestige of gendered social separation? When men, gay or straight, can stand shoulder to shoulder at urinals without a second thought, is there much to back up the view that men and women must not pee or poop next to one another, especially if closed stalls would shield them from view? Women may have some distinctive sanitation needs, but why does that require a wholly separate space from men?

Perhaps the point is precisely that the public restroom is the only everyday social institution remaining in which separation by gender is the norm, and undoing that separation would feel like the last shot in the “war on gender” itself. As we consider the possibility of electing our first female President, the bathroom as the site of sex difference has been underlined by another candidate, Donald Trump, who said, “I don’t want to think about” the “disgusting” things Hillary Clinton was doing in the bathroom, in a comment widely understood to be about her female sex. Though both men and women must perform private bodily functions in public bathrooms, the mere thought of a woman doing it implied an irreducible sex difference that made plain a gross incongruity with the ultimate public role. Public restrooms are not just toilets; for more than a hundred years, they have implicated questions of who really belongs in public, civic, and professional life.

One practical reason we can’t change to unsegregated bathrooms overnight is that municipal, state, and federal legal codes, many with origins in the nineteenth century, mandate that there be separate facilities for each sex, in businesses and places of work. These widespread codes could be changed one by one. But it seems more likely that, when it comes to multi-stall bathrooms, gender segregation will remain the norm, and that we will see the addition of more single-stall restrooms that are open to any gender. Transgender people’s need to use bathrooms that match their identified gender is modest and not reasonably denied. Old ideology, in the meantime, stays alive in mundane legal regulation that resists more thorough change and determines our plumbing.
 

momhappy

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Interesting read. I don't mind single-stall (where one person enters the bathroom and locks the door behind them) unisex bathrooms, but I would be uncomfortable with multi-stall unisex public restrooms shared by both males and females at the same time.
 

packrat

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I wouldn't be comfortable w/having men in the bathroom w/me either. I also wouldn't be comfortable sending my daughter in to the bathroom alone.
 

missy

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I'm all for coed bathrooms. Much fairer that way. I hate waiting on long lines for the ladies bathroom and time is important. So I have used the men's room in the past and I usually have my dh check that the urinals are all clear before I go in but yanno when you gotta go you gotta go.

In college the bathrooms/showers in the dorm were all coed so I'm used to it. Not a problem and much more efficient that way.
 

packrat

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I've used the men's room before, either w/my husband standing guard, or like this Friday, we have a conference for work, so we'll end up having to use the men's room. When they design buildings, why do they do 5 stalls for women and five stalls for men, *plus* five urinals? It takes longer for women. So yeah, 400 women and 2 bathrooms w/5 stalls each, that's not cutting it, we'll be using the men's as well.
 

missy

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packrat|1453836850|3981853 said:
I've used the men's room before, either w/my husband standing guard, or like this Friday, we have a conference for work, so we'll end up having to use the men's room. When they design buildings, why do they do 5 stalls for women and five stalls for men, *plus* five urinals? It takes longer for women. So yeah, 400 women and 2 bathrooms w/5 stalls each, that's not cutting it, we'll be using the men's as well.
Yeah that is not right but wouldn't it be easier and most efficient just to make bathroom stalls coed (no urinals or at least enclosed urinals) and then it would be much easier for us I think.
 

kenny

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I'm glad our culture is moving towards leaving Victorian Dark Age prudishness behind and acknowledging that gender is not a black and white 2-gender thing.
I'm glad that formerly ignored or rejected people are becoming more accepted, and part of that is them also having public facilities they can use in comfort and safety.

But I also acknowledge the legitimate concern that sexual predators may gain access to a place where their victims are literally caught with their pants down.

I think one thing's for sure, in the future public restrooms will change.
 

missy

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kenny|1453837072|3981858 said:
I'm glad our culture is moving towards leaving Victorian Dark Age prudishness behind and acknowledging that gender is not a black and white 2-gender thing.

But I also acknowledge the legitimate concern that sexual predators may gain access to a place where their victims are literally caught with their pants down.

I think one thing's for sure, in the future public restrooms will change.
Sexual predators don't necessarily obey the men/women sign on the restroom yanno so not sure gender separate restrooms would be a deterrent anyway.
 

kenny

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missy|1453837212|3981860 said:
kenny|1453837072|3981858 said:
I'm glad our culture is moving towards leaving Victorian Dark Age prudishness behind and acknowledging that gender is not a black and white 2-gender thing.

But I also acknowledge the legitimate concern that sexual predators may gain access to a place where their victims are literally caught with their pants down.

I think one thing's for sure, in the future public restrooms will change.
Sexual predators don't necessarily obey the men/women sign on the restroom yanno so not sure how gender separate restrooms would be deterrent in any way.
Of course.

But gender-separate bathrooms do deter, not guarantee, but deter.
A man walking into a women's room is more likely to be noticed as a potential problem than him walking into an all-gender bathroom.
 

missy

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It's funny in college (1982) I didn't even think it was weird that our coed dorms had coed restrooms. It was not uncomfortable in any way and I think if it was for some they quickly got used to it and it was never a problem. So for those who might initially feel uncomfortable I think eventually it won't be an issue.
 

telephone89

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There is actually a big controversy in Alberta right now regarding this. They are trying to make schools more inclusive/welcoming for lgbt students, and some prominent religious folk do not like it.

I'm fine with it. Shady things can happen in any bathroom. I don't think having a few men in 'my' bathroom will really make much of a difference. People go pee in gas station bathrooms, or seedy pub bathrooms. Just take the same 'precautions' and you'll be fine.
 

Jambalaya

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I guess in the daytime in large shopping areas the bathrooms would be busy, so less chance of being alone with a predator, but if I was in a rural mall quite late with not many people around, I'd hesitate to use them. I had a similar situation recently where it was an outdoor mall and the bathrooms were kind of tucked away, a little way from the stores, and it was late on a Sunday. I felt a little cautious anyway, since as someone mentioned, predators don't always obey signs. Having said that, when visiting certain cities I've experienced many restaurant bathrooms, single and multi-stall, where the bathrooms are down a lot of stairs well into the basement and round a lot of corners, and I've thought to myself, "Anyone could be hiding in this bathroom and no one would hear you scream!"

What about coed changing rooms at swimming pools, like the Y?
 

momhappy

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I don't even share the bathroom (using the toilet) with my DH, so no, I wouldn't be comfortable (or get comfortable) with using the bathroom with men and if that makes me a "prude" then I guess you can think that I'm a prude ;-)
I think that in some cases (like this one), gender-neutrality has gotten too extreme.
 

missy

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momhappy|1453838706|3981873 said:
I don't even share the bathroom (using the toilet) with my DH, so no, I wouldn't be comfortable (or get comfortable) with using the bathroom with men and if that makes me a "prude" then I guess you can think that I'm a prude.
I don't either but I think that's different. When you are out and need to use the restroom it is not the same as being in the comfort and privacy of your own home. At home we have separate bathrooms too because we are fortunate enough to have multiple bathrooms in our home. And I happen to think it makes for a more harmonious relationship if you have separate bathrooms mainly for space issues etc. However when you are out and need to use a public restroom it is what it is and the comforts of home don't apply.
 

momhappy

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missy|1453838911|3981874 said:
momhappy|1453838706|3981873 said:
I don't even share the bathroom (using the toilet) with my DH, so no, I wouldn't be comfortable (or get comfortable) with using the bathroom with men and if that makes me a "prude" then I guess you can think that I'm a prude.
I don't either but I think that's different. When you are out and need to use the restroom it is not the same as being in the comfort and privacy of your own home. At home we have separate bathrooms too because we are fortunate enough to have multiple bathrooms in our home. And I happen to think it makes for a more harmonious relationship if you have separate bathrooms mainly for space issues etc. However when you are out and need to use a public restroom it is what it is and the comforts of home don't apply.
It's not different for me. It's about a comfort level. I'm not comfortable using the bathroom while my DH is around and I wouldn't be comfortable using it with strange men either. I don't wan't to pee with a random guy in the stall next to me. I just don't. I suppose if the world turns gender-neutral, and the bathrooms all become unisex, then I'll have no choice and I'l be forced to.
 

missy

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momhappy- I get what you're saying and I think if gender neutral bathrooms become more and more common and you start using them you would get used to it pretty quickly and it wouldn't be too uncomfortable for you after a while.
 

telephone89

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You can't always tell who is genetically male and female just by looking at them. Depending on where you live/use the bathroom, there could be hundreds of times you've been in a stall next to a 'man' as they were transitioning. Many trans individuals will use the bathroom that they identify with. They can look like any woman walking down the street, but still pee standing up. It really doesn't affect anyone.
 

kenny

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There's today.
But then, there's tomorrow.

The next generation will grow up having gotten used to a different world ... take gay marriage.

Basically we all have to die off for some new ideas to become widely accepted.
 

momhappy

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missy|1453839624|3981885 said:
momhappy- I get what you're saying and I think if gender neutral bathrooms become more and more common and you start using them you would get used to it pretty quickly and it wouldn't be too uncomfortable for you after a while.
While I appreciate your thoughts, missy, I respectfully disagree =) I don't think I'd get more comfortable with it over time (and I'm sure that I'm not the only one). Like I said, if all the public bathrooms turn unisex, then I guess I'll have to figure it out, but until then, I'll enjoy my women-only bathrooms :lol:
 

momhappy

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telephone89|1453839708|3981886 said:
You can't always tell who is genetically male and female just by looking at them. Depending on where you live/use the bathroom, there could be hundreds of times you've been in a stall next to a 'man' as they were transitioning. Many trans individuals will use the bathroom that they identify with. They can look like any woman walking down the street, but still pee standing up. It really doesn't affect anyone.
Maybe so, but if I thought someone (a man that appeared to be a woman) was a woman, then I wouldn't feel uncomfortable and that's the whole point about my comfort level with unisex bathrooms.
 

monarch64

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I can barely tolerate sharing a public restroom with women. :errrr: I'm all for making public bathrooms unisex or all-inclusive or whatever, I just don't really want to pee next to ANYONE.
 

missy

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I think it is the fairer way to go. Going past the waiting on line argument which pales in comparison to the heart of this issue which is social discrimination IMO.


http://www.abebooks.com/9780044409588/Apartheid-Sex-Manifesto-Freedom-Gender-0044409583/plp
In “The Apartheid of Sex: A Manifesto on the Freedom of Gender,” Martine Rothblatt, a transgender lawyer, draws the parallel between race and gender segregation. Rothblatt asserts, “As with race, restroom segregation reinforces social discrimination. It took laws to eliminate "whites only" lavatories. It took laws to mandate handicapped toilets. And it is taking laws to redress inadequate bathroom facilities for women.”
 

telephone89

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momhappy|1453840708|3981896 said:
Maybe so, but if I thought someone (a man that appeared to be a woman) was a woman, then I wouldn't feel uncomfortable and that's the whole point about my comfort level with unisex bathrooms.
So is it just based on appearance? What about age - for example, young boys are often in female bathrooms with their mothers. Is there an age cut off where it becomes inappropriate/uncomfortable? What about women who look kind of like men?

I don't mean to come off rude, genuine interest! Especially from someone who is much more private even in her own home (you) than I. I pee with H in the room/door open often, as does he.
 

momhappy

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^^What do they mean by inadequate bathroom facilities for women? Does that mean waiting in line?
 

telephone89

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missy|1453841230|3981906 said:
I think it is the fairer way to go. Going past the waiting on line argument which pales in comparison to the heart of this issue which is social discrimination IMO.


http://www.abebooks.com/9780044409588/Apartheid-Sex-Manifesto-Freedom-Gender-0044409583/plp
In “The Apartheid of Sex: A Manifesto on the Freedom of Gender,” Martine Rothblatt, a transgender lawyer, draws the parallel between race and gender segregation. Rothblatt asserts, “As with race, restroom segregation reinforces social discrimination. It took laws to eliminate "whites only" lavatories. It took laws to mandate handicapped toilets. And it is taking laws to redress inadequate bathroom facilities for women.”
This is interesting. I was actually thinking a lot of the backlash is kind of the opposite - it's not treating women as secondary citizens, it's putting women on a pedestal. A perma-victim. Can't have men in the bathrooms, it's dangerous for the womenfolk. Predators might hurt/kill women.

A lot less talk about women using mens bathrooms, and how it will affect men. Most likely, it won't. I remember going to an outdoor event last year, and there was heavy drinking. The womens bathroom line was around the block, the mens just had a few guys standing outside. A woman who apparently could not hold her bladder, tried to push in front of the men to use their bathroom. They promptly removed her, and told her they didn't mind if she used their bathroom, but she had to at least wait in line :lol:
 

momhappy

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telephone89|1453841361|3981908 said:
momhappy|1453840708|3981896 said:
Maybe so, but if I thought someone (a man that appeared to be a woman) was a woman, then I wouldn't feel uncomfortable and that's the whole point about my comfort level with unisex bathrooms.
So is it just based on appearance? What about age - for example, young boys are often in female bathrooms with their mothers. Is there an age cut off where it becomes inappropriate/uncomfortable? What about women who look kind of like men?

I don't mean to come off rude, genuine interest! Especially from someone who is much more private even in her own home (you) than I. I pee with H in the room/door open often, as does he.
I wouldn't be uncomfortable with women who looked like men or young boys with their mothers.
 

jaysonsmom

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My first thought is that there might be an increase of in-appropriate use of unisex bathrooms (if you know what I mean). I may expose my kids to something beyond their comprehension......
 

missy

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momhappy|1453841468|3981909 said:
^^What do they mean by inadequate bathroom facilities for women? Does that mean waiting in line?
That is how I interpreted it. The fact is we never seem to have enough bathroom facilities at public venues. Be it Broadway shows, sporting events etc. There is always a line for the women's room and never one for the men's room.

Telephone I don't think it has anything to do with putting women on a pedestal. No we are still treated as second class citizens in many ways so that runs contrary to what you wrote. We get paid less for the same job, treated as inferior in so many ways and we still don't have the Equal Rights Amendment. :blackeye:
http://www.equalrightsamendment.org
 

chemgirl

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I have no issue with coed restrooms.

I also think the whole debate about which bathroom a transgender person should use is ridiculous. They should use whichever they want. Walking into the restroom, attending to nature, washing your hands should be fine regardless of gender.

People creeping around public restrooms is an entirely separate issue.
 

momhappy

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missy|1453842003|3981922 said:
momhappy|1453841468|3981909 said:
^^What do they mean by inadequate bathroom facilities for women? Does that mean waiting in line?
That is how I interpreted it. The fact is we never seem to have enough bathroom facilities at public venues. Be it Broadway shows, sporting events etc. There is always a line for the women's room and never one for the men's room.

Telephone I don't think it has anything to do with putting women on a pedestal. No we are still treated as second class citizens in many ways so that runs contrary to what you wrote. We get paid less for the same job, treated as inferior in so many ways and we still don't have the Equal Rights Amendment. :blackeye:
http://www.equalrightsamendment.org
Talk about first world problems
*gasp* imagine the horror of occasionally waiting in line for a bathroom... ;-) It's not that I can't sympathize, because I've waited in my fair-share of bathroom lines, but life is full of waiting in lines.
 
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