the dangers of all gender restrooms?

27 May

It has been a year since the church I serve (First Unitarian Church in Louisville, KY) converted all our first floor restrooms into All Gender restrooms. Since children are more likely to be molested in churches than in bathrooms, I figured what better place to weigh in on the current bathroom controversy than from what must be a hotbed of child abuse and molestation? That was sarcasm, by the way.

The reality is that there have been no reported cases of child abuse in our church bathrooms. And no women have reported seeing peeping-toms over the stall doors. Our experience has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the biggest issue has been that many men seem to have been raised in a barn:  there is often tinkle on the seats and on the floor. Come on, guys! Who wants to drop trou when your trou will be mopping up the pee? Ick! But as disgusting as that is, it is pretty minor as far as safety goes. And we are working on retraining everyone to be more considerate of what it means to use an all gender restroom.

So how did we avoid the “inevitable” dangers? Did we put police by the doors? Did we install secret cameras? No. It was quite simple. We had two gender specific restrooms and put on signs to indicate that they are both All Gender restrooms. We took the men’s room and turned it into a handicap-access family restroom by replacing the urinal with a diaper changing table and putting a lock on the outer door. The women’s room was even easier: we took the 3-stall restroom and simply lowered the stall walls to the floor.

In truth, it did take some getting used to. As I dashed in right before the service, sometimes in full liturgical garb, it was a little startling at first to run into a patriarch of the congregation. But these brief moments of weirdness have disappeared as the experience has been normalized. Now, we smile and nod, and usually laugh a bit.

I think most people would be willing to put up with a little (temporary) weirdness when they see the wide array of benefits it has produced at our congregation:

  • The single dad with two daughters under the age of 5 now can take them into either restroom safely and without weird looks (and without exposing his young daughters to men at urinals);
  • The mother with a grade-school aged son (who tends to act out and likes to play with rolls of toilet-paper) can go in together and he can be supervised;
  • The elderly man who is the caregiver for his wife as she descends into dementia can lovingly help her with her toilet needs;
  • And, of course, our trans and gender-nonconforming and gender-queer folks feel welcome and safe, too.

On the whole, this has been an amazingly positive experience for church members and for the hundreds of people our building serves throughout the week. It has been a point of conversation and curiosity, and it has become a way for us to share our values that all are loved and deserving of respect. Would that there were more areas in life where issues of respect and safety were as easy to address.

3 Responses to “the dangers of all gender restrooms?”

  1. Judy Welles May 27, 2016 at 10:47 am #

    Good on you and your peeps, Dawn! This is so… so… so utterly normal. Whoda thunk it?

  2. Lynne Bodle May 27, 2016 at 12:46 pm #

    Would that our legislators here in Kansas would be so sensible.

    • Delvan Ramey May 27, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

      And Gov. Bevin has just added Kentucky to the suit against the federal transgender guidelines.

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