By Chase Tolentino
This article first appeared in Transgender Philippines; published with permission from the author.
You may have heard about Gretchen Diez, a trans woman, who was barred from entering the women’s restroom at Farmers Plaza, Araneta Center, Cubao last August 13, 2019. The janitor at the mall illegally detained, physically and verbally abused, and humiliated her all because she wanted to exercise a very basic human right – to relieve herself in the toilet.
These issues could have been diminished by the SOGIE Equality Bills filed in the Senate and House of Representatives by Risa Hontiveros and Geraldine Roman, respectively.
Why do we sex segregate toilets?
People usually state safety, cleanliness, and myths as reasons. But let’s be real.
It can’t be to prevent men from looking at women’s genitals and to prevent women from looking at men’s genitals because no one is looking at genitals in the restroom. And even if someone was, stalls prevent you from seeing people go about their business. The purpose is certainly not to prevent predators from entering the restroom because no unlocked door and sex symbol stamped on that door is going to prevent a sexual pervert from entering.
And men aren’t inherently dirty, but we as a society allow them to be because we think it’s normal. Men can be as clean as women if we taught boys to be as conscious about cleanliness as we do girls. Men can see the mess – they just aren’t judged as harshly for it as women are.
To the uneducated, there’s also the myth that since sperm come out with men’s urine, if a man urinates on a toilet seat and a woman sits on it, she will surely get pregnant. This is a myth that just won’t die.
We don’t sex segregate bathrooms at home, we shouldn’t need to anywhere else. Toilets can be safe for everybody as long as they are in a well-lit public location.
Problems created by sex segregated toilets
- It causes businesses more money to build and maintain than all user toilets
- Promulgates irrational fears and labels men as predatory by nature
- It prevents parents with opposite sex children from entering a restroom comfortably with their child (I have seen women berating mothers with male children for bringing them into the women’s restroom.)
- It prevents carers and their opposite sex patients from entering a restroom comfortably
- It prevents transgender people from entering a restroom without fear of discrimination and humiliation
- It prevents intersex people with sex characteristics that differ from the binary from entering a restroom without fear of discrimination and humiliation
Why we should have all user toilets
- It costs less to build for businesses
- It’s friendly for parents with opposite sex children
- It’s friendly for carers and their patients
- It’s friendly for transgender people
- It’s friendly for intersex people
- Actually it’s just friendly for everybody!
Now the issue businesses may have when they already have sex segregated toilets is that they would have to spend to renovate their bathrooms or to build a gender neutral bathroom but there are actually many solutions where the only cost is a few new signs.
- Designating all sex segregated restrooms as all user restrooms
- Designating some sex segregated restrooms as all user restrooms
- Designating restrooms as “Restrooms with urinals” and “Restrooms with stalls”
And let’s not forget that there should always be a restroom for PWDs and senior citizens.
This will work
Many places have adopted all user toilets and while there is an initial shock for first time users from areas without them, they have been generally accepted without major incident.