The Word Artist
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The Word Artist

Why Gendered Bathrooms Are Dumb

That Time When I, a Cis Woman, Needed Unisex Bathrooms

In early January 2010, my husband Mark and I were traveling home from holidays. We had been in Regina, SK with his family for Christmas, then Cranbrook, BC with his sister for New Years, and now we were heading back to Kamloops, BC. If you’ve never driven British Columbia roads in the winter, they’re terrifying. We were used to them, though, so didn’t worry about the trip.

Highway 93/95 — Radium Hot Springs, BC

We left Cranbrook early and stopped in Kimberley for a bit to see the sights and have lunch, then headed out on Highway 95A, then 93/95 toward Radium Hot Springs.

We had just passed Invermere when it happened. We hit a patch of black ice and spun out of control into the oncoming lane. Right into the path of a large white pickup truck who rear-ended us, sending us spinning to a stop in a snowbank beside the road.

Luckily(?), we didn’t go over an edge into a gully, or hit a cliff face. There are so many ways it could have been worse.

Highway 93/95 — Fort Steele, BC

The white truck we hit was full of paramedics returning from another collision. They pulled over, radioed it in, and jumped out to help us.

The ambulance took us to Invermere’s diagnostic and treatment centre, then to Cranbrook’s hospital. Mere hours after we’d left, we were back where we’d started from.

Mark had a head injury and bruising all over his chest and stomach (from the steering wheel). I had a broken collar bone. Mark needed stitches and I had a sling.

Recovery was slow and painful. For weeks, I couldn’t get from sitting to standing to lying down and back without help. I couldn’t shower or use the toilet without assistance.

We spent some time at Mark’s sister’s house, but we eventually had to go home. As our car was completely destroyed, we took a Greyhound bus. That was fun (not). Every bump and jostle was agony for me.

At one short stop along the way at a gas station, I had to pee. However, the gas station had only the standard two gendered bathrooms with multiple stalls in each. I had no desire to use a men’s room and Mark couldn’t sneak into the ladies’ (he’s a big guy with a beard). We had to explain our situation to the attendant, and he allowed us to use the staff washroom, which was a single unisex room with a locking door. But it was all kinds of embarrassing for me to explain my bathroom needs to this stranger.

So inconvenient

A mother with a son or a father with a daughter in a case where the child is old enough to know which bathroom is which but too young to be allowed to go alone has the same problem I did.

What do you do when you need a unisex public washroom but there is none available?

Some of my friends and family are in favour of the so-called “bathroom bills” that want to ban people from using public bathrooms that don’t match their biological gender. They’ve been brainwashed by the fear mongering anti-trans lobby that tells them their daughters aren’t safe if transwomen are allowed to use the same bathroom. I tell them my story, and they have no response.

If we got rid of stalls, and made all washrooms unisex single rooms with doors that locked, that would solve the problem. Of course, businesses don’t like that idea because those kind of bathrooms can only accommodate one person at a time. Stalled washrooms use less space for more people at once.

And yet, unisex washrooms are helpful, maybe even necessary. I don’t know what I would have done if that gas station hadn’t had a unisex staff bathroom, or if the employee hadn’t been kind enough to allow us to use it.

Gendered bathrooms are stupid. Let’s just get rid of them completely. The bathrooms in our houses aren’t segregated by gender, and they work fine.

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