by Tyler Eilts
A necessary evil which pushes our privacy boundaries into the open: Public restrooms.
Public restrooms can prove challenging to many individuals who are differently gendered from the falsely dichotomous “Male” or “Female” stick figure depictions on bathroom signage. Thankfully, many colleges and universities are introducing all gender restrooms to their campuses.
When considering such changes, it is important to remember that symbols are key. The signage outside of the restroom is vital in affirming the identities who are seeking to use the facility, as well as ensuring that the entire public knows who is able to use the restroom. Unfortunately, there is not yet a reached consensus as to how the signage should look, as ideas change from different perspectives. However, Campus Pride’s Trans Policy Clearinghouse Coordinator, Genny Beemyn, provides us with a few good rules to keep in mind:
- The male and female stick figures are offensive. This further supports the false dichotomy that gender is either “this” or “that”, with no variations in between.
- Including a half-woman or half-man to the male and female figures can still be rendered offensive. This may imply to some that transgender individuals are split between the two, again with no variations in between.
- If you feel the need to gender the bathroom, wording along the lines of “All gender restroom” or “Gender-inclusive restroom” is more encompassing to all identities across the gender spectrum. Whereas the language “Gender-neutral” implies that gender is a neutral concept which can be overlooked. We see gender, and we see the variations within it. We must acknowledge these.
- It is always an option to just label the signage with the word “Restroom” and simply have depictions of a toilet and/or urinal.
If your campus is taking steps towards inclusive restrooms on campus there are many free resources to utilize. Your campus may be eligible for free restroom signs. For details, please contact Katelyn, the Outreach Manager, at Smart Sign/My Door Sign.
For information regarding transgender policies at colleges and universities, please visit the Campus Pride Trans Policy Clearinghouse.
For more information and personal narratives on the discrimination that people who transgress gender norms face with bathroom access in public space, in schools, and at work, check out the amazing documentary Toilet Training by Tara Mateik and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.
Check out the trailer here:
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Tyler Eilts is an alumnus of Illinois State University, where he is also seeking his Master’s degree in Interpersonal Communication and Women’s and Gender Studies. He is a 2015 Summer Fellow for Campus Pride.