Culture

Against Gender-Neutral Bathrooms  

A bathroom sign in Durham, N.C., in 2016. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)
They are pointless, wasteful and sexist.

I was out for lunch at a Manhattan restaurant with my friend’s daughter, an exceptionally classy seven-year-old.

“Please, may I go to the bathroom by myself?” she asked. “Yes, but no dilly-dallying!” I replied. And off she went. Striding briskly, blonde curls a-bouncing — straight into an “all-gender” restroom.

Oh dear.

As she entered this unlocked (lockable) room, three little boys were — now in full view — urinating round one toilet. Perturbed, if not alarmed, my young friend immediately burst back out, gave me a big wave, as if to say “oops” and “don’t worry!” She turned on her heel, disappearing around the corner. A moment passed. One by one, the heads of three naughty little boys popped out. Scheming and snickering, with catlike tread, they traced my wee pal’s route.

Terrifying and immediate was my arrival on the scene, scattering the would-be tormentors.

“Those boys were trying to peek on me!” she said. “I only peeked on them by accident!” Little boys are little savages, I told her gently, adding that very few improve with age. More importantly, I explained that gender-neutral bathrooms were only recently invented. And, evidently, by some very careless and wasteful people who don’t mind sacrificing the privacy, hygiene, and camaraderie of the female toilet experience.

There are three good reasons to be against gender-neutral bathrooms. 1) They are pointless. 2) They are wasteful. 3) They are sexist.

Pointless. Polling consistently shows that most Americans care most about bread and peace. They do not generally give much thought to potty policies. And so, making such a policy a priority in a political campaign is likely to come across as out of touch and self-regarding — a fact the Democrats learned a little too late in 2016.

Nevertheless, many in the metropolitan elites like to accuse the Trump administration of having targeted transgender people. By reversing Obama-era policies, they say, Trump & Co. have robbed trans people of safe and pleasant bathroom experiences. But isn’t anyone curious how it all worked before Obama? And why is no one complaining about the various presidents before Trump who held the same approach to sex-segregated bathrooms?

What’s more, it’s not like presenting as the opposite sex is particularly new human behavior. Since the 1960s, a tiny number of individuals have even made a serious surgical commitment in more closely resembling the opposite sex. Life was, and no doubt is, difficult for such people. But how might this ideally play out? That is context-dependent, naturally. But if, for argument’s sake, we presume such a person to be sincere and well-meaning — as opposed to, say, a predator — then a natural relationship of trust might ensue. One where a woman washing her hands at the bathroom sink might do a double-take, realizing that she is in the presence of a man, but after carrying out an instinctual and internal risk assessment, decide all is fine. She might even smile and say hello.

But that is her prerogative, surely. The man in this rare hypothetical ought not to have a legal right to be there.

Moreover, if his legal right to be there trumps her right to privacy, then no allowance is made for the fact that, while some men presenting as women are benign and sincere, others are malign and predatorial. Wouldn’t the woman, then, be justified in feeling unsafe?

Many accept that she would. Which is why “gender-neutral” restrooms were introduced as an attempt at a compromise. Instead of people using whichever restroom they felt corresponded with their “gender identity,” it seemed more reasonable to have all gender-neutral bathrooms for everyone (including “non-binary” people). But is this reasonable?

Wasteful. How much do these (pointless) gender-neutral restrooms cost? On the smaller end of the scale, some schools, for instance Grant High School, have simply converted a handful of unisex or family bathrooms into gender-neutral restrooms. “The conversion cost less than $500, most coming from changing interior locks,” the Oregonian reports.

This year, Yale law-school students successfully sued the state of Connecticut for single-occupant all-gender restrooms. In their suit, the school writes: “The proposed shift in designation to gender neutral . . . would facilitate quick access to a bathroom within the building for persons of all gender identities.” Though Yale has not made public how much this cost, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, another campus in California spent $150,000 on a new gender-inclusive, single-occupancy restroom.

Target, meanwhile, decided to spend $20 million on single-stall gender-neutral bathrooms in all of its stores. This is an attempted compromise after customers threatened to boycott the company for allowing staff and customers to use whichever restroom matches their self-declared “gender identity.”

Sexist. To be clear, single stalls are still miserable for women (who make up, lest we forget, half the world’s population).

First, women are cleaner than men. Women do not stand and aim at the toilet but sit on a seat. They rarely misfire. They rarely get pee on the floor. They almost always flush and almost always wash their hands.

Second, women take longer to go to the bathroom than men. This is in part because of the whole ordeal of half undressing and sitting down. But it is also because some women are on their periods, while others are pregnant or have been pregnant at some point (and so have weaker bladders). Women also have a higher occurrence of UTIs.

Third, women — partly for safety and partly in honoring an age-old ritual — often go to the bathroom in numbers. Some will touch on make-up. Others will, if the line isn’t too long, have a chinwag while there. This is important to women. Don’t ask me why. But it is.

In an essay originally published on the Stage website, then unpublished following “strong responses” online (and republished by The Spectator), Sarah Ditum explained how the all-gender bathrooms in the Old Vic, a famous London theater, were working out. (A lot of the points she makes are more broadly applicable.)

Now the Old Vic has completed the refurbishment, it’s clear that something has gone very wrong. Yes, there are more toilets, with 44 where there were once 22 — but not more toilets for women. Instead, there are 26 toilets and 18 urinals, and all new toilets have been turned “gender neutral”. Patrons are, in theory, free to “self-select” from blocks labelled stalls-only and blocks containing urinals. The problem is obvious: women cannot use urinals. That means there are 44 toilets for men, but only 26 for women, and only that many for women who are willing to run the gauntlet of penis to get to the stalls alongside the urinals.

Pointless! Wasteful! Sexist!

So why are colleges and businesses now spending millions of dollars in accommodating the demands of activists supposedly speaking on behalf of a minority? Who knows. But what is clear is that they are doing so at the expense of the privacy, hygiene, and camaraderie of an established and objective majority — females, especially those little ones.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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