Gender-neutral bathrooms should not be a big deal

By Jonathan Rubin

Honestly, it is pretty silly that we are still talking about gender-neutral bathrooms as if it is an issue. As a cisgendered male, I cannot know exactly how someone who is a woman or someone who is not cisgendered would feel about it, but gender-neutral bathrooms feel like a no-brainer to me.

In my conversations with people talking about the upcoming change to provide more gender-neutral bathrooms (specifically for incoming freshman), I only seem to ever talk to people who either do not really care whether or not a bathroom is gender-neutral or people who feel far more comfortable to not have to label themselves every time they need to pee. Going to the bathroom should not be like filling out the census.

The fact of the matter is that when you walk into almost any dorm bathroom at Lawrence University on the weekend, and even during the week, you very well could see someone who is not of the designated gender for the bathroom, and nobody cares.

So maybe there really are opponents who feel uncomfortable sharing their bathroom with people of different genders. I just doubt that those people have never drunkenly stumbled into a restroom on a floor that was not designated for their gender or witnessed someone of the opposite gender in their floor’s bathroom.

I am equally as uncomfortable sharing the bathroom with men as I am with women. I do not want anyone watching me wash my hands or rushing me by tapping their foot outside my stall. Men and women both commit many of my bathroom pet peeves—messy sink area, leaving shower supplies scattered about, et cetera. I find the presence of men in the bathroom just as physically uncomfortable as I find the presence of women.

All of this is to say I would far prefer to have a private bathroom, but no matter how badly I hope and pray for one, that is not going to happen—at least not in Trever, where I live this year—and it is not the university’s job to make sure I have the ideal, most comfortable bathroom. The university is supposed to provide a sanitary place to relieve yourself and—most of the time—that is exactly what it does.

Now if you are someone who feels incredibly uncomfortable using public bathrooms and that problem would be exacerbated by those restrooms being gender-neutral, then go find one of the many one-person restrooms on campus, and as long as you are not making a handicapped person wait for you, I do not think anyone should begrudge someone for that. As someone who is often uncomfortable around other people—in the bathroom and outside of it—I can definitely understand that impulse.

That being said, I would never tell someone that they need to find a private bathroom. If you have that problem, then you should remove yourself from that situation and not tell people what to do with their bodies.

I understand that some may say “I don’t want some creep using my bathroom,” but creepy people of both genders use the bathroom and you do not get to exclude people from using the restroom just because they are creepy. There are many men I do not want to share a bathroom with, but I do not get a choice about it. I understand that maybe for some this is about fear over safety, and I do understand that fear, but I do not think that we should put off a change like this that could have such a positive impact. Students’ physical safety is certainly of the highest priority, though.

Dorm bathrooms are not ideal. They are not always clean, and you have to share them with people who may not live up to your hygienic standards. So why not let other people, who would also probably prefer their own private bathroom too, feel a little bit more comfortable? Everyone uses the bathroom, and in my experience, eye contact is widely avoided. Does it really matter if there are a few more faces in your floor’s bathroom?

It is not even about being liberal or the now mocked “politically correct.” All a gender-neutral bathroom does is let people feel more comfortable about something that they have to deal with every day, just like everyone else. This is not a political issue. This is not about how liberal college campuses have become and it is not about “The Gay Agenda.” Let’s try to keep gender politics out of the bathroom stalls.

I think Lawrence should just take down the signs, let people do their business and get back to class.