There’s probably a lot of people, primarily student activists, who get angry just from reading the above headline. I’ll ask two things from those of you who fall into that category – First, hear me out. Second, understand that the following argument is not based in any hostility towards any group, but rather raw practicality. Also, as you will see, this argument applies to community bathrooms, not single stall bathrooms.
Pushing for gender neutral bathrooms is a new and increasingly popular form of campus activism. Left wing students across the country have been trying to eliminate the traditional “binary” divide between the genders in on-campus restrooms. For example, college students in California recently held a “Sh*t in” to campaign for, among other things, “adding ‘Gender Diversity’ signs to existing gendered bathrooms.”
Why are students doing this? Mostly out of a desire to be more inclusive, particularly to transgender individuals. But as this movement picks up steam, the demands for more and more bathrooms to drop their ‘gender segregation’ may prove problematic.
As a bit of background information, the true number of transgender individuals in the country is unknown. Estimates vary, and within those estimated percentages, there are differing levels of gender dysphoria between persons. Regardless of where the exact number lies, understand that it is a small percentage of the population, both at large, and at any specific school in the nation. What activists call “cisgender” is the overwhelming majority of any student body.
Therefore, on net, a shift to gender neutral bathrooms would only be a good move for a school to make if the collective benefit to those members of the population which feel more “included” (the minority) outweighs any potential downside to the “cisgender” community (the majority). Otherwise, on net, the movement will do more harm to society than good, whether they meant to do so or not.
Let’s break it down further – the emotional/psychological discomfort a transgender individual feels as a result of separate bathrooms can be terrible, but it is more than likely true that many “cisgender” students will feel discomfort from being forced to use the restroom with the opposite sex.
To be crass for a moment – students spend time naked or exposed in dorm bathrooms across America. Whether it be stalls, showers, or whatever else, there will be plenty of opportunity, intentionally or otherwise, for students’ privacy to be violated by the opposite sex in community bathrooms.
In addition, there are many dangerous scenarios that are real possibilities. One such scenario is passing out in the bathroom after a night of partying. This happens too frequently at colleges, given the high levels of drinking which occur on weekends, and sometimes even weekdays. As a simple example, ask yourself, if a female student passes out at 3 a.m. in a bathroom stall, would you prefer another female find her, or have it be a coin flip whether the next person coming through that door is a male or female? Personally, I would prefer another female student find her, as opposed to a potentially intoxicated male.
Herein lies the biggest danger with gender neutral bathrooms – a potential for more sexual assault, and certainly more sexual harassment.
True, what I’ve just described is a purely subjective judgement call, but the question you must ask yourself when considering this issue is whether the emotional, physiological, and even physical stress that could be put on “cisgender” individuals is collectively larger than the benefit in the same areas that transgender individuals will receive. It’s difficult to test, and likely impossible to quantify, but I present this argument to make it clear that simply opposing gender neutral bathrooms does not make you mean, “transphobic”, hateful, or whatever other character assassination may be thrown my way, and more importantly, thrown at students who are uncomfortable with this movement and are being labeled with insults in retaliation.
When it comes to public policy, everyone has to bear in mind that everything is a trade off. When you spend money on a new library, you make others worse off by taking more of their earnings through taxes. When you kill a terrorist, you may end up with civilian casualties. If you want more security at home, you may have to forfeit your civil liberties. In other words, whenever you make something better, you must make something else worse. The question is, which alternative outweighs the other in terms of harm and benefit. Public policy is about finding the right balance with every issue, and maximizing things through making the correct trade offs. Gender neutral bathrooms are no different.