PHOTO: The "gender neutral" bathrooms at OSU are now called "gender inclusive bathrooms" and they were featured in a front-page student newspaper article by Luuk Van Hoomissen, "Inclusive identity, Oregon State University houses more than 200 gender neutral restrooms," Barometer, Jan. 29, 3016, p. 1-2 online as "Oregon State University has over 200 gender inclusive on campus with plans for even more," posted Jan. 29, 2016. (See previous post OSU Pride Center moves to be 'Brave Space' and 'gender inclusive' instead of 'Safe Space' or 'gender neutral' (12/2/15))
I see a new trend here that building architects should be taking note -- I see an emerging customer demand, which appears to be popping up first on college campuses across America, for gender inclusive public restrooms a.k.a. public bathrooms or public lavatories that can be used by people of any gender identity:
"In 2008 there were less than 30 gender-inclusive restrooms on campus that we can identify by records. Today there are 200," said Steve Clark, vice president for university relations and marketing. "All forms of inclusivity are a priority to this university." Steve Clark said that all new building constructions and all major renovations will now feature restrooms that are both gender-inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities. "Through conversations with students about diversity, inclusivity, and safety, we have elevated our communications about inclusivity and inclusive excellence," Clark said.
(Quoted from Luuk Van Hoomissen, "Inclusive identity, Oregon State University houses more than 200 gender neutral restrooms," Barometer, Jan. 29, 3016, p. 1-2 online as "Oregon State University has over 200 gender inclusive on campus with plans for even more," posted Jan. 29, 2016)
The only other context that I've seen a similar issue pop up is with the so-called "family bathrooms" often requested by mothers, especially of young boys, who want to bring their child into the public bathroom of the opposite gender for safety reasons. My personal experience with this was with my mother, who had grown up in a big city where children were occasionally assaulted in public bathrooms and who insisted I go with her to the women's bathroom until I was past five years old, much to my chagrin. The last time she forced me to go with her was after she had been embarrassed by a woman screaming at her for bringing a boy into the women's bathroom! When she tried to explain the safety issue as the reason for doing it, the woman yelled back the assertion that only children who can't go unassisted should be allowed in.
Historically, the "bathroom issue," and the common confusion by most people between sexual orientation and gender identity, has always been a heated flash point in the discussion of LGBT rights ever since the 1969 Stonewall riot that is often used to mark the beginning of the gay liberation movement, which led to the first wide-spread public discussion of gay rights and the rights of transgender people. Human's instinctive desire to segregate public bathrooms by sex or gender (e.g. male vs. female) has a long cultural history and some very deep emotions associated with it.
My mother insited that public bathrooms used by women were often messier than those used by men, perhaps due to the extra needs of women dealing with periods and the fact that men more often use only the stand-up urinals. Whatever the truth is, most women I have talked to about this subject find the idea of using a men's bathroom very "scary and disgusting" because they are worried about being sexually assaulted or spied on by a man.
Most men I've talked to don't worry about a woman being present in a public bathroom, but they will often note without any prompting that they would go violent toward a male homosexual voyeur looking at them sexually. In my experience, these violent emotional reactions by straight men is at the center of the the long history of so-called "tearooms" or public toilet rooms (i.e. t-rooms or tearooms ala porcelain china tea cups) historically used by closeted gay men for anonymous sex, which led to police raids and legal crackdowns toward homosexual men.
Ironically, an infamously anti-gay Republican U.S. Senator Larry Craig was caught by police trying to solicit sex from another man in a public bathroom. Craig is just one example of many self-hating closet cases who hypocritically bash gay men while secretly engaging in gay homosexual acts.
Fortunately today, it appears that tearoom sex has become just a fetish for a small number of younger men instead of tearooms being the only sexual outlet for closeted men because society has given them no other choice. I can forgive Craig because he was from an older generation that knew firsthand about the discrimination they would suffer from coming out as gay, however, it is sad that Craig was unable to accept the positive changes that had been won by the gay liberation movement over the last few decades.
In my experience, I can't stand using a woman's public bathroom because I hate the scent of perfume and it is much harder to avoid a mess. Similarly, the family-bathrooms I've been in have been even messier probably due to the fact that children are messier than most adults. In the future, it will be interesting to see what new stereotypes are formed after gender inclusive bathrooms become more common on campus. I know that the right-wingers have already created the stereotype that "gender neutral" bathrooms are an example of the "political correctness" by liberals on college campuses. I always cringe when conservatives complain about "political correctness" by liberals because if this is really a real problem for them, then so what?