Skip to main content

Who Cares Where You Pee? An Argument for Gender-Neutral Washrooms

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

Why shouldn't all washrooms be gender neutral?

Why shouldn't all washrooms be gender neutral?

My Uncomfortable Trip to the Washroom

For my daughter's 13th birthday, she told me that she wanted her "special thing" to be going to go see Thor: Ragnarok. I was only too happy to buy tickets because the previews for it looked amazing, so off the family and I went to get a little Marvel movie action.

Of course, there comes a point for me—and sometimes for my kids—where it's time to go to the washroom and that's usually when the highest point of action in the movie is. Tonight was no exception, and because my youngest daughter, who is eight and a half, was a bit squirmy in her seat, I asked her if she needed to go as well. Off the two of us went to the female washroom to conduct our business.

So at this point I suppose I should offer a bit of a description of me. I am 44 and a half years old, I'm six feet tall, and I have short hair. I'm told that I'm relatively broad-shouldered for a woman, and to be really frank, I don't have much of a bustline. The fact that I've lost about 12 pounds over the last four months or so while training for a half-marathon (and just while training to be fitter than I am, actually) has not helped in that regard, and in spite of having had two children, I don't really have much in the way of hips, either. My frequent joke is that I am built not unlike a 16-year-old boy, except without the bulk that often accompanies a youth of that age.

It was early November in Canada, with the temperature hovering around 3 degrees Celsius (roughly 37.5 degrees Fahrenheit). As such, I had thrown on a somewhat bulky zippered sweatshirt to stay warm, both in my trip to and from the car and in the theater.

Now, I find I don't get frequently hassled in a change room, largely because my gender is obvious the second I go about the business of getting changed from my workout attire to my regular street or work clothes. I do not understand people in washrooms, though; for whatever reason, it seems to me that people's brains go out the window and they will ask any manner of question or cast any sort of look on someone who may seem different.

I know for my part, if I see anyone in a washroom, I might smile a greeting if our eyes meet, but for the most part, I will assume that the person is rightfully there to conduct the same business that I planned on conducting. By rightfully there, I mean the person has to go pee. I don't care about the gender of the person, and I'm not about to give them a funny look or even better, get ticked off with them for being in the washroom.

My eight-year-old happened to catch the look the woman in question gave me and the look she gave me after she watched the lady go past and into a stall was rather priceless. She knew enough not to say anything while there, but her look was very much, "Was she really for real, Mom? She couldn't tell you were a girl even with her 3D glasses on?"

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Pairedlife

Why are people so bloody concerned with where we go pee?

Pee and move on with your day

Pee and move on with your day

The Sad Thing Is...

At nearly 45 years old, I have experienced this type of incident more than once in my life. More than a few times, in fact. It's also something my oldest daughter has gone through multiple times, and she's actually been hassled by both kids and grown-ups for it to the extent that she's now very reluctant to use public facilities.

Why do we think it's okay to look strangely at someone in the washroom if we don't feel he or she belongs there? Why do we make comments that only serve to make the person using the facilities feel bad?

I get that there are many individuals in society that are so hung up on the gender binary that if someone is in the washroom that doesn't "fit," they feel they have the right to say something. As a point of aid, I suggest the following ways to recognize the time when you should say something to someone who might not belong in the washroom you're using:

  1. When they look confused and seem as though they may have no idea why they're in the washroom in the first place, which suggests that there might be other issues at play on a cognitive level.
  2. Never.

It is perhaps time that we consider switching all washrooms to a gender-neutral style, with individual stalls and locking doors like female washrooms have so that men who perhaps have no desire to stand in front of a urinal, free to the breeze, have a degree of privacy in order to use the facilities. There is nothing that justifies anyone giving anyone else a hard time in the bathroom. You're there to void your bladder or your colon, and so long as you wash your hands, no one should hassle you.

Bathrooms should ideally be one of the safest locations for anyone to be, given the purpose for which we enter them. Too often, they are not. We need to let people have the space and the privacy they need in order to go pee without looking at them strangely as we wonder if their gender identity corresponds to the sign on the washroom itself.

So long as they clean up after themselves and flush, who cares?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Related Articles