We all have our favorite public bathrooms on campus that provide us with the solitude that we cannot always find in our daily lives. The ideal bathroom is a sacred place of trust and comfort and is always there when you need it. It has warm lighting, an endless supply of soft toilet paper, and most importantly, makes you feel as if you are in the privacy of your own home. Hedge gets some major hype for their bathrooms, mostly the ones on the first floor and basement. Some other nice getaways include the bathroom in Pettigrew basement, and the less frequented Chapel bathroom. The problem with some of these bathrooms, and with the culture around Bates bathrooms in general, is that they are gendered.
Gendered bathrooms force users to make a choice regarding their identity as strictly male or female, with no room in the middle. This is an intense form of discrimination, specifically segregation, on the Bates campus, as students with fluid identities are now forced to conform to an identity they might not be comfortable with. Furthermore, there is no reason that students should have to make a public choice about their identity when they are going to serve a private purpose. As Bates prides itself on being politically correct and socially progressive, it is disappointing to feel as though Bates is settling for an ignorant stance on issues such as these.
Not only do gendered bathrooms pose a discriminatory threat for students of fluid gender, they also pose a threat for some of the ideology that controls Bates’ culture. By imposing conformity to a single gender when going to the bathroom, Bates is making a statement that it is ignorant of transgender, gender queer, gender fluid, and other students. The Bates community is also making a conceptual statement that there is no separation between sex and gender. This is an intense fundamental problem that can potentially hinder growth towards the understanding of the complexity of human sexuality and gender for every person that sees the gendered signs on the bathroom. By simplifying public bathrooms into two categories, Bates is setting a cultural tone that the separation of the sexes and division into sexes is the social norm, which is extremely problematic.
I understand that gender neutralizing the bathrooms at Bates will not fix every prejudice that gender fluid students at Bates are subjected to every day. I understand that gender neutralizing the bathrooms at Bates will not automatically result in a cultural understanding and appreciation for gender fluidity. I do believe, however, that it is a step in the right direction. It is a step towards respect, a step towards inclusivity, and a step towards equality.