Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On restrooms and gender

Rhianna and I stopped at a Franchised Coffee Shop (TM) today, and procured some frosty beverages.

R then asked an employee for the key from behind the counter, to use the single-occupancy restroom. She unlocked the door to the women's room and went inside.

Soon after, another customer went into the area with the restrooms. The customer tried the door to the women's restroom, which was locked.

When this person, who had what some in society would consider to be masculine features, went back to the counter and asked for a key, the customer was given a key to the men's room.

The customer went back to the area with the restrooms. Trying to open the women's room door with the key given, which didn't work, it took a minute to realize that the customer was handed the men's room key. Seemingly mortified, the customer then opened the door to the men's restroom and went inside.

I watched as these events unfold and was, in a way, a bit heartbroken. I imagined this scenario, happening over and over again, to a person who likely perceives themselves differently than the world sees them. The embarrassment, the confusion by others, again and again.

It later occurred to me: Why are single-occupancy restrooms categorized by gender, anyway?

What purpose does such a system serve? The men's room didn't have a urinal, so that couldn't have been the reason. On the contrary, it seems as if the scenario of using said restroom is potentially humiliating for both the store employee and the customer. More importantly, whose business is it, anyway, what is or isn't between one's legs when using the restroom? Is society so set in its ways that we still feel the need to carry out this useless practice?

If multiple rooms need categorization, a better system would be to call the rooms "Room A" and "Room B" or something similar. The current labeling of single-occupancy restrooms looks to offer no positive aspect and several negative ones.