Breaking the bathroom barrier

Who knew public restrooms were so controversial?

An Aug. 31 Raleigh News and Observer article titled “Students Rally for Gender-Neutral Johns” focused on the efforts of three N.C. State students who are pushing to have new gender-neutral bathrooms installed in campus buildings. Foregoing gender-specific restrooms, the students say, would make things more comfortable for transgender people. And adding the nonspecific facilities would reduce the long lines that tend to form outside of ladies’ rooms.

The article mentions a Web site,, which was created by an unofficial group called the “Bathroom Liberation Front.” It lists, and plots, gender-neutral restrooms in 280 different cities, including directions, details and accessibility of the johns. Some entries even include comments (“They actually have 2 gender-neutral restrooms in this restaurant!” reads the rave review of the facilities at Rosetta’s Kitchen, the only Asheville listing.)

The University of Vermont and UNC-Chapel Hill are just two of at least 17 universities across the country that have committed to installing gender-neutral restrooms. The students at N.C. State are seeking to join them.

— Rebecca Bowe, contributing editor


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17 thoughts on “Breaking the bathroom barrier

  1. Way back in 1969 Emory University made some restrooms in my dorm gender-neutral. The most interesting effect was that they stayed cleaner than the men’s rooms. I heard no report on how they compared to the women’s version.

    I don’t know if there is any lesson there, but since the restroom nearest my dorm room was one of those so-named, I was a happy beneficiary of the improved hygiene, so it made the facility more comfortable for nontransgender people too. Or this one, anyway.

  2. Bathroom Liberation Front? This sounds like an Onion story.

    Gender-specific bathrooms are one of the few things that seperate us from animals and Europeans.

  3. Dionysis

    This seems like a solution in search of a problem. Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to how many transgendered people there are in this country, anyway. Is the number such that gender-specific bathrooms are creating another legitimate discrimination category?

  4. ian

    I’m not sure about the transgendered thing, but if a woman was able to go to the restroom without a friend then the line would be half as long, I don’t think men should have to wait longer because of this.

  5. sonjia johnson

    what about the issue of how unsustainable it is for us to be pooping in the dwindling water supply?


  6. Gordon Smith

    Ought we poop into little balloons that we could launch into space?

  7. marissa

    my undergrad up in new hampshire had gender-neutral bathrooms in the main buildings.
    all of them had stalls, of course, and the option to lock the main door if necessary (there were many bathrooms on one floor to chose from.)

    i never saw a problem with it personally, and felt even more okay with it knowing that it could have made a few students feel more comfortable.

  8. free to pee

    For the pee-shy and other Buggs, the ideal context for gender-neutral privvies would be the single-seaters (e.g. in gas stations) and the line would be “next-available-teller” rather than gender-divided. What’s to be shy about in there alone with yourself?

    When I’ve been in mixed gender bathrooms, I’ve found that it does not matter in the least who is in the next stall, as long as everybody is in there just to urinate or defecate. Other activities and hobbies in the john…? … that’s just gross.

    Women and others might take longer in the john because they have more clothing management to manage (maybe Ian is unfamiliar with the anatomy) and because they are more likely to wash their hands after managing clothing than men and others are after doing the urinary genital-grope.

    If the number of transgendered persons is the criteria for legitimacy of discrimination, then we just need to prove ANY group is small enough and we can discriminate all we want! Isn’t that a happy thought?

  9. free to pee,

    A) way to use a stereotype about men be unclean in bathrooms to make your point about discrimination.

    B) You have yet to adequately explain how having sex based restrooms (they are sex based, not gender based) is discriminatory. If you have male equipment, use a mens room. If you have female equipment yadda yadda yadda. Unless of course you propose a separate restroom for hermaphrodites?

    I find it just a bit bizarre that with all the issues a person could take up that you chose this one. I mean seriously…Bath Room Liberation Front?

  10. pearl

    I’m tired of talking about world peace. I like this discussion better. I use one-stall men’s bathrooms anytime there’s a line for the women’s restroom. It seems crazy not to if I really need to go. And yes, sometimes the guys leave the seat up, but I expect that going in.
    I would love it if all public bathrooms had stalls and real toilets as opposed to urinals. Then we could go co-ed, and Americans, who are amazingly sex-obsessed considering how skittish we are about bare breasts and the fact the both sexes go potty, could hopefully at some point get over ourselves.
    little bladder

  11. jeff

    bad idea.. im a guy and i know when i need a clean restroom go to the ladys room. pretty soon both rooms will be gross right?

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