I have just finished listening to a very thought provoking Podcast, hinting on a topic my husband and I have often discussed. Though the Podcast was not directly on the topic, it sent me here. The topic is societal fear, the Podcast actually was on the history of public bathrooms and how we got where we are now with sex separate facilities and the issues they cause for transgender, non-binary, intersex, and disabled people.
It takes me back more than 3 decades when as a Mom with young children, I was faced with having to take a son into the women’s room or hubby having to take our daughter into a men’s room because we didn’t want them going into the other facility on their own or leaving them outside to wait while we went in. Even then, the idea of single the sex bathrooms seemed absurd to me. You don’t have them on buses or airplanes. We share bathrooms in our homes and in some small businesses that have a single facility, why can’t we have bathrooms that accommodate everyone.
The answer is fear, unreasonable fear. It has been pervasive in history. When bathrooms were a privy, everyone used them without regard to gender or color, then indoor bathrooms came along with water and sewage infrastructure, but women were basically kept at home. As women entered the workplace, the system changed, but only for privileged white America when we unnecessarily segregated a whole population out of fear. Building code was written to mandate separate sex bathrooms. Then after desegregation, the fear switched to AIDS, could you catch it in a bathroom? Then more open acceptance of same sex marriage, or has it just fomented more irrational fear as the issue of which bathroom a transgender, non-binary, or intersex individual must use.
I think most of what drives today’s issues is fear of change, fear of what people perceive they can’t control but shouldn’t control. Fear caused by generations of ignorance by people raised to believe that anyone of a different race, religion, gender identity, or nationality is alien and suspect if not outright dangerous.
Back to the Podcast, the code, through the efforts of lawyers, researchers, and architects who are themselves in one of the categories in the first paragraph or at least open minded and not driven by fear, has changed to allow new building to have one large bathroom with grooming areas, hand washing areas that vary in height and are long “sinks” angled away from the user, and toilet areas with stalls of varying sizes to accommodate everyone regardless of size or disability. This would work, it would be as they put it in the podcast, “more eyes” to prevent unwanted behaviors, but unfortunately the code doesn’t mandate this change, just allows it and as long as the FEAR is there, it will continue to be a problem in our society.
It is time for our small-minded fear to be cast away and recognize that we are all humans on the same planet and can benefit from each other’s cultures, beliefs, ideas.