Last weekend at the rec center a little boy walked out of the women’s restroom as I was going in.
He didn’t have an adult woman with him and for the briefest of moments I panicked. Maybe I had gone into the wrong bathroom by mistake? I wanted to double-back and check the door, just to be sure. Saturdays are busy at the rec center and I didn’t want to suddenly be surrounded by a pack of boys vying for the urinals.
And then I corrected myself. Maybe the 7-year-old kid felt more comfortable in the women’s bathroom than in the men’s? Maybe he had made the mistake — the two egresses are really close together and vaguely marked. It would have been incredibly cruel to point this out to him and I am not in the habit of being mean to children.
Or maybe, and here’s the kicker, it doesn’t even matter at all?
I first went into the opposite bathroom in elementary school on a dare, during a lock-in for being a good reader. Yep. That’s what the “good” kids do at lock-ins. Stupid dares and you sleep under the desks. (Also, there was an unfortunate incident with Cheeze-its, but that’s another story to be told another time.) Anyway.
What’s the difference between the girls bathroom and the boys bathroom? Urinals. That’s it. Same sinks. Same tile. Same weird bright pink soap that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
College is the next time it happened and this time I 100 percent didn’t even realize until after I’d finished my business and walked back out. My college library had the bathrooms in the exact same location on every single floor — women’s bathroom on the left, men’s on the right. Except for on the second floor. Where they’re switched.
Listen. When you’ve been studying for mid-terms, finals, or whatever SERIOUS college thing you’ve been studying for the past three hours, you don’t even notice the urinals until you’re on the way back out. If then.
The point is, urinals are irrelevant. People don’t install urinals in their homes. Fancy bathrooms in rich people houses have bidets. Not urinals.
In public places it’s not as though the dimensions of a bathroom change because there’s a urinal versus a toilet. They probably still take the same amount of water when you flush them. Men’s bathrooms still need toilets. Why even bother with urinals?
I’m incredibly proud to work for a school district that is actively renovating its bathrooms and making it known that gender questioning students can use whichever bathroom they prefer. I’m glad that I volunteer my time with a roller derby league that hosted a tournament and made it clear that the only difference between the two restrooms at our venue is that one has urinals and the other doesn’t.
I’m glad I know people who can change their names from Elizabeth to Kieran. That Aaron can wear makeup, get her ears pierced, and be Kathleen. Are my friends happy with who they are? If yes, then their toiletry choices don’t matter.