North Carolina’s ‘bathroom bill’ – which, among other things, bars the transgendered from using the washroom of the gender with which they identify – has ignited a firestorm of controversy. In favour of the bill are religious zealots, hard-headed republicans, and otherwise dumb people. On the other side is everyone else. Amongst the latter is the Obama Administration, which is now distributing letters to public schools stating the schools must allow students to use the bathroom of their choice. This ultimatum has, predictably, incited resistance and vitriol from the bill’s aforementioned advocates.
Among the hailstorm of proverbial spears hurled from both sides, the solution to the disagreement has been obscured. The answer is one neither side is advocating for: bathrooms shouldn’t be gendered at all.
Really, why are they?
It can’t be to prevent attacks. That argument is baseless. For one, having both sexes in the same bathroom would mean more people would be in the room at any one time, thus deterring potential predators for the increased number of witnesses present. And, anyway, even if bathrooms are gendered, does anyone really believe that someone bent on attack will be deterred by a stick figure on a door? No one is being ‘protected’ by the gendering of bathrooms. Rather, such a system reinforces the unlettered notions that men are rapists controlled entirely by their little heads, not their big, that women are helpless and require governmental protection from these duplicitous, hulking beasts, and that there are only two genders.
If it’s so people feel ‘comfortable,’ then I say too bad. Growth arises from discomfort. The idea that we need to gender our peeing and pooing to preserve certain individuals’ conception of ‘comfort’ is horrendously hedonistic. Indeed, the very idea that this archaic conception of social order is necessary at all is fatuous. Public washrooms were male-only until the Victorian Era; the first gendered public bathroom appeared at a French Ball in 1739 – people thought it was “eccentric and fun.” We’ve come a long way since then, and it’s time our bathrooms caught up.