Nov 23, 2007

[Gay Rights] Gay Bathrooms?

Flickr: Zervas - gender neural bathrooms
gender neural bathrooms
by Zervas.

In a management meeting held this morning well past my shift, the subject of the company bathrooms came up out of the blue. At first I thought I was just tired and had misheard things, but then the subject continued. W were talking about the proper usage of the bathrooms.

The concern under consideration - which bathrooms transvestites should use. Seriously. When I really started to think about it, I guess it can be a pretty topic to consider in the context of ever-muddy office politics and political-correctness / anti-discrimination concerns.

It's kind of ironic that this came up so soon after my little rant about how subtle discrimination has become in the workplace. Again I was left thinking if I should be offended somehow with this entire line of conversation, but then I suppose they had a point as well.

On the one hand, gay men in drag will always be men, in a biological sense, and it can get pretty unsettling to have a guy in any context within the confines of the women's bathroom. Sure, they might be messier than the girls normally are or something along those lines. Change the gender roles and repeat.

For the guys however, I'm not sure straight men would be entirely comfortable with having a guy who looks a lot like a girl in the next cubicle with them. To complicate matters further, gay men of course are interested in, well, other men. Go figure. The same goes for more butch lesbians using the women's bathroom, although I imagine dealing with lipstick lesbians is probably even more unnerving.

Unisex bathrooms always seemed like such a "modern" and convenient way to side-step this complicated question - just have one kind of bathroom. Sure, you'll need a longer sink and more "sections" in your bathroom to accommodate a more private section for urinals that remains separate from the toilets and such. but since it's a bathroom that is designed for both men and women, members of the third gender, as the old clichéd term goes, would fit right in the middle. Or would they?

Is there a bet answer? Some of our managers just asked these cross-dressers to make a final decision - pick one bathroom and stick to it. Given that, the rest seemed easy enough. Now we have the subject on the table and whispers of discussions about formalizing a full policy on cross-dressing could be heard around the table. For the issue of bathrooms and requiring that you use them in line with what shows up on your birth certificate as your gender, I remained silent. The consensus was clear.

But should it wander off into the tricky territory of cross-dressing, what then? Do I dare speak up? Could I live with remaining silent? What then?

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