A controversial North Carolina law has brought the hotly contested topic of gender-neutral bathrooms to the forefront of the political sphere once again. The unreasonable culture of fear regarding the implementation of these spaces often essentially boils down to two issues: safety and feasibility. Both of these concerns seem simple to address in the abstract, but are often hard selling points without verifiable proof. However, The Cooper Union’s recent pledge to change all of its on-campus restrooms to gender-neutral facilities will hopefully finally provide opponents of unisex restrooms with the satisfactory evidence they so desire.
The Cooper Union’s plan is a viable model for the rest of the country; it has replaced all restroom gender signs with descriptive identifiers such as, “Restroom with Urinals and Stalls” and “Restroom with Only Stalls.” This move is a smart one; it doesn’t single out transgender individuals through the addition of a separate facility, and it has numerous benefits for cisgendered individuals who use public restrooms.
The added convenience of this setup seems obvious — the number of restrooms available to all people will double. This will mean shorter lines and less time searching for the correct facility for your identified gender. Additionally, those with children will no longer have to consider the feasibility of using a public restroom with their young ones. Mothers can accompany their sons into the restroom without a second thought, and fathers with young infants will not have to worry about whether or not a changing table will be available in the men’s room.
With the numerous benefits associated with their implementation, it seems difficult to understand the widespread opposition towards gender-neutral facilities. The most common claim is that they will essentially sanction violent activity in restroom areas through the mixing of men and women in one facility. But not only have studies repeatedly proven this claim false, it also seems to completely defy common sense, as men and women exist in the world without segregation everyday.
These sort of statements are based solely on thinly-veiled discrimination. The umbrage that many take with gender-neutral restrooms is not one rooted in feasibility, cost, or safety, but in a specific bias against the LGBTQ community members who would benefit from this much needed change. It is a bias so strong that it is impeding the implementation of facilities that would benefit not only LGBTQ students, but also the country as a whole. Lawmakers cannot continue to obstruct nationwide progress like this for the sake of their discriminatory beliefs. Gender-neutral bathrooms cannot and should not be allowed to become yet another casualty in the seemingly never-ending battle many are waging against LGBTQ equality.
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