The Pharisees asked Jesus, “What does the law say about where people may relieve themselves?”
Jesus replied, “A person went into the restroom. There were several other people there. One, looked at the newcomer and said, ‘Let me see your identification so I can determine if you’re in the right place.’
Another pointed a gun and said, You don’t look like you belong here. Get out before I blow you away.’
But a third held open the door to the next available stall and said, ‘Next!’
‘Now, which one,’ Jesus asked, ‘displayed the proper restroom etiquette?’
‘The one who let the person go in and pee.’
And Jesus commanded them, ‘Go and do likewise.'”
I grew up in a house with one bathroom for six people. Without going into detail about the dysfunctionality of my family suffice it to say we had some issues over access to the facilities. So, even though I’m a cis female and don’t expect to be challenged when I enter a woman’s restroom, I do know what it feels like to not be able to go when you got to go.
I know. It’s not that simple. I’ve been reading about the restroom wars. And I have to admit to some mixed feelings. I have no problems using a unisex restroom – as long as everyone obeys rules of common decency and courtesy. I’m not sure we’re ever going to solve the “seat up or seat down” controversy however. I haven’t been able to win that one in my own house, where we do have the girls’ bathroom and the other one.
I’ve also read a very thoughtful blog post by San Francisco transwoman, Bertie Brouhard: A Case Against Unisex Bathrooms. She describes waiting in line in the women’s room and being asked by another woman, “Don’t you hate waiting?” She reflected that the question “piqued my attention and got me thinking how grateful I am there are both Men’s and Women’s Restrooms! My answer expressed in my softest, warmest, lilt with a smile on my face was, ‘No, not at all. In fact I’ve waited over fifty years to use this bathroom.'”
In another interview, she says she believes that the bathroom isn’t the appropriate place for this particular fight: “It’s not a sexual thing. It’s not a right-to-carry-a-gun issue. It’s not same-sex marriage. It’s not abortion. It’s going in to relieve yourself. Don’t carry it too far… The bathroom is not a good place to start a fight.
Still, there are those who are ready to carry the fight into the stalls, pledging to carry guns into the women’s room to fend off – what? someone who simply has to relieve themselves? Really?!
I don’t have answers to the complex issues surrounding this controversy (except the right to carry guns; that’s a no-brainer). All I know is that, according to Amnesty International and the U.N. General Assembly, access to toilets is a basic human right. And we’re not even touching on the problem as it relates to people who are homeless. Easier to complain about feces and urine on the streets than provide access to facilities.
How sad that we have to even say that we need legislation ensure a basic human right. Yet, since we evidently do, we must advocate for those rights. But the bottom line for me is still common human decency and courtesy. Whoever we encounter in the restroom, may our simple greeting be, “Next!”