I will admit that, to date, I have mostly ignored the whole “battle of the bathroom,” as Time magazine calls it.
Even after my own home city of Houston rejected a bill late last year that would have given all of us the right to use the bathroom we felt genetically “zoned” to, along with other protective anti-discrimination measures, I still kind of didn’t pay much attention.
I guess I just wasn’t sure what the big deal was, and so I assumed sooner or later it would get worked out so everyone could pee when and where they wanted to.
But when my regular issue of Time magazine showed up with rolls of rainbow-colored toilet paper on its cover, I started to realize this issue isn’t minor to a lot of folks.
And it isn’t going away.
So here is my take on it.
My mom and I have been sneaking into men’s bathrooms for years. This on account of our pea-sized bladders and how often men’s bathrooms have no line and women’s bathroom lines are circling the block.
Recently I was out having brunch with a (straight) girl friend of mine. I had to pee, so I headed for the usual spot. As usual, there was a line to use the women’s room and no line for the men’s room.
But for the first time I didn’t sneak in. Why? I was afraid I would be arrested! (I may not see much to get worked up about over who goes in which bathroom, but I do have a lot of strong opinions about me going to jail.)
Several years ago, I traveled extensively outside North America. In some places, the bathroom was unisex (and often required a fee to use). In other places, the bathroom was a rickety structure which contained a head-sized hole and two markers for where you were supposed to place your feet.
In still other places, the bathroom was wherever you happened to be standing when you had to go. Literally.
So I for one think we’re lucky we have bathrooms at all – actual bathrooms, with toilets and toilet paper and doors and all that.
I also think the statistics to date speak for themselves (primarily by their absence) regarding whether gender-based crime increases when transgender folks are permitted to use their choice of bathrooms.
But mostly, I can’t help but be aware of how many people suffer and die each day because of a lack of the most basic necessities, such as clean water, food, basic medical remedies (such as rehydration formula for infant diarrhea, which is a major killer in less-developed countries) and shelter.
Not to mention safety.
For instance, here in my comfy safe temperature-controlled home in Houston, TX, (where I have a whole bathroom just for me) it is hard to even imagine what it would be like to be cowering in a boat or a refugee camp somewhere, all alone and wondering if today might be my last.
But that is the reality for many people around the world today.
It is a luxury – yes, luxury – to spend our time fighting about who gets to use which bathroom. It is also a waste, in my opinion.
The true solution, of course, would simply be to make all bathrooms unisex, like the ones I used all summer, every summer, at outdoor music festivals we attended while I was growing up.
In other words, whoever has to go next gets to go into whichever stall is free next, and so on, and so on.
Although I will concede that, in terms of actual brick-and-mortar bathrooms (rather than port-o-potty outdoor music festival bathrooms), there might need to be a few modifications made, such as the installation of actual stalls and toilets where only urinals formerly existed.
But once this was accomplished, we could all get back to the business of solving weightier issues where survival is at stake, not just issues about whether or not the person who needs to pee (or worse) will be permitted to do it in the facility bearing the gender sign s/he most identifies with.
All that to say, it honestly floors me that, in this time of international terror and ongoing brutality and genocide in many parts of our world, so many in this particular corner of it are choosing to spend their precious and fleeting time here fighting over bathrooms.
It also makes me very, very sad.
Today’s Takeaway: I don’t really know what to say here, other than I realize this is an explosive issue for many and I also still don’t understand why. Because I can’t relate to the fear some people seem to feel regarding the presence of transgendered people in our society or in our personal space, I also can’t relate to their concerns over who uses what bathroom. In college, I lived in a co-ed dorm in one of the largest universities in the country. Male and female students that lived on my floor shared our bathroom facility together – including our showers. It wasn’t an issue. So for me, it still isn’t an issue. I would like to see us put our collective wisdom to greater use….life-saving use. That would be something – really something. That will continue to be my wish.