Editorial: Use the all-gender bathroom, even if you don’t need it

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The bathroom in your home is for all genders. Why should the bathroom at your school be any different?

That’s the question Rowan officials faced when building the new Holly Pointe Commons. They could accommodate transgender students, or appease outraged commenters like this:

“If this radical shift in society and various sensual (sic) identities continues in a rapidly downward swirling direction, we could all end up going, not in a hand basket but in a very large shopping cart, straight to a place that is very hot,” one commenter wrote.

“For those who have not settled on a gender, is there a half-down position on the toilet seats?” wrote another. “This [politically correct] stuff is getting to be bizarre! Call them [wash closets] and be done with it.”

There are actually a few good reasons to not just make any old bathroom available to everybody. For one, public bathrooms, which is what the shared bathrooms in dorm rooms really are, offer significantly less privacy than the one in your home. At home, you can close the door, lock it and rest assured that the space in which you bathe and use the toilet will be occupied by only you. In public, there are cracks and crevices where peering eyes often creep through.

For another, public bathrooms offer no choices. When out and about, you have to go where you’ve been designated to go. There is no upstairs and downstairs bathroom, there is simply a men’s and women’s and you use the one that aligns with you.

Then it seems like the case for all-gender bathrooms is beaten. They would seem not to offer any of the benefits of our private restrooms, with the added intrusiveness of people of the other gender potentially sitting next to you.

Unless, of course, you could create an all-gender bathroom that offers far more privacy than the average public restroom, which is exactly what Rowan has done. The stall walls and doors in Holly Pointe bathrooms don’t offer the usual spacial gap, the one that makes everyone feel like they’re being watched when they pee at the mall. Instead, they stretch high to the ceiling and low to the floor, minimizing the chance of unwanted glances.

Better yet, the “bathroom” really just acts as a hub for small toilet rooms. The terminology can get muddled and convoluted, but what is thought of as a “stall” – three walls, a door and a toilet – could really be its own self-contained room. The same is true of the showers, which even offer extra space for changing.

So the “stalls” of the all-gender bathroom could really just be like the ones at home, places that offer privacy and a toilet and shower. With bathrooms such as this, there’s no reason not to use them.

This solution, though, forgets the point of choice. At home, you can go upstairs, downstairs or in the master bedroom (depending of course on how many options your home has). That’s why Holly Pointe makes all-gender bathrooms just one option, allowing you to still use the room aligned to only those of your gender, or even a single bathroom – complete with a toilet, sink, and shower all in the same room – as well.

The solution for such brazen bigotry such as those commenting on online news stories is not a new sign, or a reaffirmed position to accommodate minority groups. The solution is that students who don’t think they need such a bathroom use it anyway.

Students who align with the gender of their sex at birth should not only feel safe in using the all-gender bathrooms, considering they are no different than the ones designated for men or women only, but should feel empowered to do so. Without cisgender students using all-gender bathrooms, we create not an all gender bathroom, but a transgender bathroom, one that makes an easy identifier for people like those in the comments of an NJ.com story who want to attack, demonize or harass – see our report on vandalism in those very bathrooms.

If you’re comfortable using those bathrooms, do so. Much like the bathroom at home, you retain your privacy, lack the information of who’s on the other side of a wall and, of course, always have the option to go somewhere else. But the university has done its part in creating what is the likeliest to succeed of the all-gender bathroom ideas.

Now it’s on the rest of the students to take a stand – or in this case, a seat – for what is right, so that the idea doesn’t go to waste, or worse, become a flashpoint of targeting and hate.

For questions/comments about this piece email editor@thewhitonline.com or tweet us @TheWhitOnline.

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