I don’t think it is possible to ignore potty politics in a blog about gender. This is an issue that effects almost everyone and can cause a real dilemma for people who do not identify as one of the two “accepted” genders. In Vancouver at least, I am starting to see some non-gendered and unisex washrooms, but still for the most part, when you need to go, you have to make the choice of which sign to follow. Does the little person with pants or the little person in a dress more closely align with you?
I personally do not see the big deal about this topic. Most homes don’t have separate toilets, I don’t think. I totally respect the position it puts some people in to have to make a choice they don’t want to make and may not be comfortable with either decision. The reason I don’t see it as a big deal is because I don’t understand the resistance to sharing a washroom with someone that may have different plumbing than you.
I have started to think that maybe I have been doing something wrong all these years and I am missing out on something good. You see, and please don’t laugh, when I go to a public washroom, I do my business, wash my hands and leave. There must be more to it than that if assigned males and assigned females cannot be in stalls next to each other. This was really bugging me so I decided research was in order. I want to know what was going on in North American washrooms that would be so disrupted if they were not segregated. Off to the mall!
Obviously I didn’t want to just barge in to the washroom with the wrong little blue picture next to it. If I did, I am sure whatever they were doing would have stopped immediately. I opted for a more subtle approach. I found a comfortable seat close enough that I could watch them going in and out. I thought maybe they would look happier coming out than going in and possibly with close observation I could notice something that may give me some clue as to what was going on.
I was trying to take notes and watch them at the same time which is difficult. I did not notice a big enough change that could be related to something other than relief. I also did not notice anyone going in with birthday cake. (That was my early theory. Most of my assumptions around conspiracies is that they must have something to do with delicious sweets). Ok, so this wasn’t working out so well, but thank goodness for modern technology. I thought it would be so simple to snap a picture with my phone. One picture going in, one picture coming out and I could analyze them more closely at home.
In hindsight, it probably was a little creepy to have someone taking picture of you going into the washroom and coming out of the washroom. I really don’t blame whoever tipped off security. It was a little embarrassing to be escorted out of the mall, though. Off to another mall, one little set back can’t get in the way of social science.
I was a little nervous when I arrived at the next mall. I wasn’t sure if mall security had a hotline network set up to warn them about creepers. I was a bit timid as I went in and nonchalantly started browsing through some of the stores, trying to look inconspicuous. I regained my confidence when no one raised an alarm. The workers and security seemed to not even notice me. Either the word wasn’t out yet or they aren’t as well coordinated as I thought. Coffee was the next stop. I thought I should make this look as genuine as possible to avoid another debacle.
Since observation from the outside did not produce any clear evidence, I thought I should go into the washroom that would be more accepting of me and see if there is something I have been missing all these years there. Maybe there was a secret handshake or code I had not been taught. Instead of my usual quick trip in and out, I settled into a stall and waited. Unfortunately, observation from inside a stall is not easy. I knew peeking under the stall into the next one might be frowned upon. As I sat there I noticed something that might be hurting my little experiment, too. This early summer weather is great, but because it is so warm, I had worn shorts and sandals. Of course, with sandals my painted toes were exposed. Maybe that was spooking the others in the washroom. Maybe they would curtail any covert activity thinking I was an infiltrator. After a half hour in the stall being no more enlightened than when I entered, I decided to change tactics.
One of the advantages I had was that I could stand at a urinal in the open, making observation more easy. That is what I decided to do. If something was going on in there, surely I would notice it now. Again, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Maybe standing at a urinal and looking around at everyone coming and going for 20 minutes wasn’t the best idea I ever had. Maybe actually unzipping my pants could have made me look like I was there for a legitimate reason. Maybe this is why the police force has never asked me to help out with the mall facilities stakeout task force.
That was the end of my experiment for now. Final score, escorted out of two malls and exactly no new information on what goes on in the washrooms. Something must be happening in there that is very important to guard against though. It would just be silly for so much debate to go on about it, if it is just a matter of a person with different plumbing than you being in the stall next to you.