My husband absolutely hates going to the bathroom in public places. It's not so much an issue of privacy as it is one of cleanliness. He'll be the first to admit that he's a bit OCD, and as a result, he knows where the best bathrooms are in town. “Hold it until we leave the mall,” he's been known to advise me. “The bathrooms are cleaner at Costco.” As for me, I have a different approach - when you got to go, you got to go. I don't put a lot of thought into it – I just do my business and get out!
As a heterosexual couple with no kids or elderly family members in our care, my husband and I are privileged that cleanliness is the only thing we have to worry about when finding a public restroom. You might be thinking that “privilege” is a strong word to use when talking about something as simple as using the bathroom, but let's really break this down and think about it.
First, picture the average public restroom. There are two doors, one male and one female. Which one YOU would choose might seem obvious, but what would do if you were a:
- Young woman taking care of her elderly father who needs assistance in the restroom?
- Single dad with a daughter who is too young to go alone?
- Trans individual, whose sex and/or outward appearance may or may not match their gender?
- Single mom with children of varying sex and ages, a stroller, and lots of shopping bags?
All of a sudden, the choice doesn't seem so easy, does it? 50 years ago, gendered bathrooms didn't seem like such a big deal. In those days, women were the primary caregivers of children, and we hadn't yet seen the vast expansion of the senior citizen population that's happened as Baby Boomers reached the age of 50 to 70 years old. Certainly, there were trans people, but LGBTQ activism was still in its infancy. While society has adapted to these changes, bathrooms have not.
A few businesses, however, are taking the lead on offering unisex bathrooms. They want their customers to be safe and comfortable in their stores, and a new bathroom plan is just the way to do that. So far, the response to these changes has been overwhelmingly positive.
On March 26, Facebook user Tonya Owens snapped a picture of this sign at a Kroger in Athens, Georgia. In less than a week, it has been shared over 118,000 times.
The sign reads: “We have a UNISEX bathroom because sometimes gender specific toilets put others into uncomfortable situations. And since we have a lot of friends coming to see us, we want to provide a place for our friends who are:
- Dads with daughters
- Moms with sons
- Parents with disabled children
- Those in the LGBTQ community
- Adults with aging parents who may be mentally or physically disabled.
THANK YOU for helping us provide a safe environment for EVERYONE!”
Still need further proof that unisex bathrooms are a good idea? Check out this picture my sister snapped in one of Target's family restrooms.
Target, like Kroger, has been a leader in proving unisex bathrooms. When you have a toddler needing a diaper change, a diaper bag, a stroller, and an infant strapped to mom, it's a huge relief for everyone to be able to enter the bathroom together. It's such a simple thing, but finding a family restroom makes their day, as you can see from my brother-in-law's cheesy grin!
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H/T: Tonya Owens