Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Shouldn't All Public Restrooms be Gender Neutral

When I was young I used to go to University of Illinois football games with my dad and his co-workers, and everyone would tailgate for hours before the game. With all that drinking, the Port-o-Potties were always heavily used, and I vividly remember the long lines for the ladies and no lines at the mens. This is no surprise to anyone, but I can recall wondering just what was so unique about an outdoor toilet that it had to be gender specific. Well, these days, if I go to large outdoor events like the Bolder-Boulder or a college football game, I know there is just a row of port-o-potties and they are not gender specific. That's as it should be. Which poses the question: why are public restrooms gender specific?

That may change in Denver in the future - a new building code amendment would contain a gender-neutral requirement for all single stall restrooms. Of course, it should be that way. In buildings where there are single stall/room restrooms, it makes no sense for one to be male and the other female, especially if there is no urinal for male use. That is the reality at many restaurants these days, especially those with just one or two bathrooms. Obviously, if there is a single stall and it has a traditional toilet, either sex should be able to use it.

“You have people standing in these old houses, basically, and there’s a line for the ladies room when across the hall it’s the exact same, with a door and a lock, and it’s empty,” he said. The proposal is part of a package of amendments to the Denver building and fire codes, which the council updated earlier this yearThe new bathroom rule would apply to both new and existing single-stall restrooms, with signage changes required by May 1, 2018. Restrooms designated for family or assisted use also would need signs making clear they are gender-neutral.
However, I would go one step further and argue that even in a large multi-stall restroom, there is no real reason for the rooms to be separated by gender. If the urinals are removed and each toilet is in a singel stall, then it really should make no difference. For people watching TV in the late 90s, you might have seen this concept as a particularly prominent - and progressive - feature of the workplace for Ally McBeal. It was even refered to as "the unisex," as opposed to the bathroom. I always thought that was a particularly innovative idea, and I occasionally wondered why the idea didn't catch on.

I would argue that a decade from now, the presence of gender-neutral bathrooms will be the new normal.

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