Why Every Building Should Have a Gender-Neutral Bathroom

Imagine you’re a young gender-nonconforming guy in your teens and you often wear skirts and makeup. You’re not in the midst of a social gender transition, but you don’t quite fit into the category of male or female. How do you choose which bathroom to use?

Gender-neutral bathrooms benefit so many people—those who are currently in transition, fully out transgender people, openly queer people who are frequently subject to harassment, and even those with disabilities.

People with disabilities can easily use gender-neutral restrooms as well.

Since gender-neutral bathrooms are often larger, and in my experience are frequently designed as a single stall, they’re more accessible to those with physical disabilities that make using the restroom a difficult or time-consuming process. My friend Katie uses a wheelchair, and she often looks for these single-stall restrooms because the accessible stalls in women’s bathrooms are usually synonymous with baby-changing stations. "Sometimes when I go into the women's room, I find out that the accessible stall is being used by someone with a baby or they have a young kid in there with them," says Katie, a recent graduate of Westfield State University. "I either have to wait or look for another bathroom." 

Many people face harassment and violence in gender-specific restrooms.

Transgender, gender-nonconforming and queer individuals are often subject to harassment and even danger just for using public bathrooms. If someone doesn't look the part of the gendered restroom they're using, others who are in the restroom may resort to bullying and violence. This problem stems from transphobia and homophobia, and from a lack of education about individuals who may not conform to gender norms. 

Gender-neutral bathrooms are a no-brainer solution. Recently, a California elementary school took it one step further and did away with gendered restrooms completely. The school made this decision in part to acknowledge how important it is for everyone to be equal, even when they’re taking a potty break.

Gender-neutral bathrooms make people feel safe.

All buildings should be required to have gender-neutral bathrooms, just as they are required to have disability-accessible ones. In many ways, gender-neutral bathrooms can be thought of as similar to disability-accessible bathrooms—because people who don’t conform to gender stereotypes may feel uneasy, frightened or even unable to use them without fearing for their life. Public restrooms should, be able to be used by all, plain and simple. That’s why the Austin, TX city council passed a law that all businesses with single-use restrooms need to include a gender-neutral one.

Single-stall bathrooms solve the issues with gender-neutral community restrooms.

Many people oppose a complete shift to gender-neutral only restrooms (as in, no bathrooms labeled "women" or "men" at all). It's been pointed out that some people may feel uncomfortable using the restroom with the opposite gender, especially in cases where people may be taking showers or changing clothes. Violence between the genders could also easily transpire in the enclosed space when there aren't other people around to take action. 

There's a simple solution to these issues: all public spaces should either have single-stall gender-neutral restrooms, or the option for all three community restrooms (women's, men's, and both). This way, an individual has the choice of what restroom to use, based on personal comfort, and never has to worry about making that choice.

People are different, but we all have one thing in common: we all have to pee sometimes. Let’s make it a requirement for every building, so that nobody has to worry about whether or not they can hold it for another two hours.