Q Center

May 19, 2014

Bathroom Politics

Hi Oly! I have an etiquette question for you. I am thrilled that UW is starting to designate some restrooms as gender-neutral. It’s a change that’s a long time in coming, and I’m sure it helps make the lives of trans* people a little easier. However, I’m cisgender, and I’m wondering if it’s ok for me to also use these restrooms. I want to respect the needs of the trans* community, but it seems like a lot of people avoid using them, and I think it would be terrible if “gender neutral” started getting a stigma. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thanks!

Hi! Good question! Bathroom politics are weird!

There are two different types of trans(*) inclusive bathrooms, and with that in mind there are two different answers to this question.

1. all-gender bathrooms – By this I mean multiple stalled bathrooms that are open to all people (like at the Vera Project or the basement of the art building). These bathrooms are ones that I’d encourage all people to use. I think it’s important to attempt to normalize these bathrooms! Please feel free! I think that these sorts of public restrooms are places where stigma can be questioned and combatted. It’s a situation where you can realize, “oh, this really… isn’t a big deal at all.” Use those bathrooms, encourage others to use them. Make a new normal.

2. universal bathrooms – Universal bathrooms are single stall bathrooms that are accessible to people who use mobility devices and they also provide changing tables for families. Don’t use these if there are other options. If it’s the only option in a building, go ahead, but they usually exist as an alternative to gendered, multi-stalled bathrooms. Like on the third floor of the HUB, about fifteen steps away from the standard bathroom option, there’s a universal bathroom. Don’t use this one! It’s definitely made to be available to everyone, but who needs it more? Who needed to fight for it? A lot of people use the universal bathroom in the HUB to change clothes, apply perfume (this isn’t chill, don’t make an accessible space inaccessible), drop a deuce, whatever. You can do that in other bathrooms. Don’t take away spaces designed to right wrongs!

As a reminder to everyone else, we have a growing list of gender neutral bathrooms on our website here! Another fun thing to pay attention to, if by fun you mean mind-boggling and irritating, is restaurants and the like that have single stall gendered bathrooms. WHY! WHY!!!!!! It makes absolutely no sense!

I’m glad you asked this because it’s definitely not so cut and dry, so thanks for being considerate of that. I hope this helped clear your confusion up!