Gender Neutral

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

August 3, 2011


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The Bridge

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The reason is an attempt to further break down stereotypes and opportunities for discrimination. The target audience are those who don’t understand or might likely participate in discrimination against transsexual or transgendered people. The place is Western States Center’s CSTI conference. The outcome is that most bathrooms on Reed College‘s campus are turned from gender specific to gender neutral.

Hm. I have visited gender neutral bathrooms before, in public. First, our house is a gender neutral bathroom. You potty train a kiddo — everyone goes, it just is. There is no bathroom segregation. Maybe toilet segregation if you want to ensure a certain level of cleanliness. I’ve noticed in public, in some places (think law firms), women’s bathrooms have niceties the men’s doesn’t. I like to find lotions, hand creams, other toiletries. But, back to that gender neutral bathroom. Where was it? A gay bar. Lansing, Michigan. I was 19. 19 year-old kids were allowed to visit because it was mostly a dance club. Club Paradise.

I had a lot of soda, so I needed the bathroom. There were two. They were more or less unmarked. They might have had a sign reading “unisex”. So, I picked one to the left. Stalls, sinks, and mirrors. No urinals. Men and women doing their business in the same space. I had been conditioned to gender specific bathrooms like many, so I had to work it over in my brain a bit for it to make sense. But, once the “gay bar” filter layered, it simply made sense. And, besides, who really cares?

Now, at Western States, again I don’t care who I will see in the bathroom. My morning coffee was kicking in, though, and I needed to potty. I sought out the bathrooms, and I realized I did care, at least on one hand. I wanted the bathroom with the stalls — no urinals please. I want my privacy behind a stall door.

One gal mentioned, as we were coming out of the separate bathrooms, how much gender neutral bathrooms made sense regarding simple conversation. I found this to be very much the case at Club Paradise. Men and women mingling, giggling, dancing, flirting, and there is no separation. Does there need to be a separation? Thinking of it in the form of the conference, it makes perfect sense to allow gender neutral bathrooms for that reason alone. You are in these great social justice workshops delving further into the conversation. Perhaps your conversation has piqued at a point where you must keept alking. But, nature calls — you don’t have to really stop the conversation for a gender neutral bathroom.

Their reasoning, though, was coming from a place of power and speaking stories to that power. I have never been confused about my gender. I have always identified as female and I enjoy many things feminine. I also liked to try and climb trees, play ball with the boys, and always wished I had learned to fix a car. I was confused growing up with a myriad of other things, but not my gender. Western States advocates for gender neutral bathrooms because of the space it can hold for discrimination. My mind can wrap around the cruelness of people making cold, calculating judgments when someone is at a moment of weakness. I find it sad. So, in that light, I can appreciate a gender neutral bathroom where people who would rather not or choose to identify in ways looks don’t at first showcase, it offers a space where people can just be. And, really, given the space it is — why wouldn’t we do that? Simply let people be to take care of themselves.

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