Posted January 13, 2016 by Cooper Point Journal in Letters & Opinion

Everybody Pees

A Conversation About the Importance of Gender Free Bathrooms

By Jamine Kozak Gilroy

Having spent the break with two small children, with a household ban on “potty talk”, I’m coming back to the adult world, and I want to talk about bathrooms. Everybody pees, and I believe strongly that anywhere you take your pants off should be a safe space.

Unfortunately, for people who are queer or trans that has historically not been the case. Increased visibility for people who are transgender in the 21st century has unleashed a flood of queer and transphobic feelings and rhetoric that exposes our cultures convoluted ideas about gayness, straightness, and gender.

As my friend River, a trans boy, film student, and Harrison Ford aficionado, told me, “I, as a human, have a bladder that needs to be emptied and sometimes because of my social dysphoria and feelings of personal safety my ability to pee comfortably is compromised.”

Bathrooms are fundamental, and the right to pee safely should be respected and protected for everyone. In light of the Evergreen State College’s grant proposal to change the bathrooms in the Sem II building into gender neutral bathrooms, I talked to two of my trans friends about how they feel about the prospect of switching all the bathrooms to gender neutral restrooms.

I asked them both two questions; why do you believe gender neutral restrooms are important and what is one thing you want people to understand about gender neutral restrooms.

One of my friends, a passionate trans woman and fabulous writer who asked not to be identified, expressed a desire for the cisgendered population to reconsider how we view requests from trans students saying, “It sucks that it is stressful to ask for something like this- I think people here think that they do more for trans people when they actually do, so you have to fear backlash.”

She also mentioned that while there are gender free restrooms in Sem II already, because of the awkward set up of the facilities, where there is one large handicapped and gender neutral restroom per floor, plus one restroom marked wither ‘womens’ or ‘mens’, both the trans population and the handicapped population don’t have easy access to safe restrooms, “You don’t have priority even though you are technically part of who they are trying to include.”

Throughout our discussions both she and River brought up examples, explaining how, while Evergreen comes off as a queer friendly school, they still experience many of the same alienating things here on campus that they would anywhere else. Sideways looks, aggressive overheard comments, being misgendered, and general feelings of non belonging.

Campus should be safe for its students— it is not a place where anybody should feel like ‘the other’, and gender neutral restrooms in one of our most regularly used buildings would be a big step in making that dream a reality. In the meantime, River has one piece of advice for his fellow bathroom users, “they are going to see trans people on campus, they are going to see people they don’t think ‘belong’ in ‘their’ bathrooms- they need to keep their judgmental looks to themselves.”