Gender-neutral bathrooms are more common than ever, even in the workplace.
Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk, MissionBox co-founder and CEO, offers her response to the MissionBox DoubleTake — a column that offers opinions about the peskier aspects of working in the nonprofit sector. The opinions offered here are based on the author's personal nonprofit experience and may not reflect the opinions of MissionBox, Inc. These opinions should not be considered legal advice or used as a substitute for professional legal consultation. MissionBox readers are invited to submit alternative responses, which may be published here as well.
I work at a nonprofit that operates out of a residential house; a gift that we received as part of an endowment. It’s comfortable, it’s wonderful to see trees and grass outside and we’re rent-free — all great benefits.
But we have a slight quandary: we all share the home’s two bathrooms. There are no designated “ladies” or “mens” restrooms. This type of sharing was unfamiliar territory and was a little hard to get used to for all of us. We’re a very courteous group, so we’ve made it work.
What has been challenging is that one of the men here takes a shower after he bikes 10 miles to work each day. It’s weird knowing there’s a guy across the hall in the shower as I am working away on my board report.
All in all, however, privacy in bathrooms has been honored and we have never had even a small issue. How would others react, I wonder, to this scenario?
Kathryn says …
In a nonprofit of your size, you likely have few concerns about safety related to gender-neutral bathrooms. "Safety" is often trotted out as an excuse for objections to unisex toilets.
Your experience made me think about all the unnecessary fuss related to unisex bathrooms, in general. Many restaurants and clubs now have “one restroom fits all” and once I became used to them, it was no big deal. The thoughtful design of these spaces seems to be a big factor. My experience is that it’s a safe and reasonable option that is inclusive for all.
The current political uproar about co-gender bathrooms, targeted at transgender individuals, comes across as justification to continue to deny civil rights to others. The truth is that more and more of us are using these sorts of recreation-based unisex facilities or are establishing businesses in homes to circumvent high commercial real estate leasing costs and obligations.
Despite the cultural transition to more gender-neutral bathrooms in our daily environments, the showering co-worker might be pushing the boundary a bit too much. Perhaps you could designate the most private of the two bathrooms as the only shower-friendly spot, and ensure there are good locks on the doors and some sort of sign that says “occupied.”