Current Issue Perspectives

False Binaries

Imagine it’s a normal day, and you’re on a tight schedule, and you just have to run to the bathroom real quick before a meeting. Real quick. But instead of the “man” and “woman” signs on the bathroom doors, there are other signs.

Say they read “blonde” and “brunette.” And you’re a redhead.

Say they read “Democrat” and “Republican.” And you’re an independent.

Say they read “Normal people.” Say they read “Not for you.” Say you’re stuck out in the hallway, hesitating, and even if you eventually choose one, you’re worried. What if someone tells you to leave? What if somehow you’re in the wrong bathroom?

For an art project this semester I’m working on a display about the transgender bathroom issue. I counted the bathrooms I had access to in the Meadows Art Building (there were eight pairs) and made signs to tape over the gender signs. Signs like “Christian/atheist” and “Apple user/Android user”–false binaries. While it is often thought that there are only two choices, some people simply don’t fit into these categories.

The point of the project is to put people in the place of transgender or intersex individuals, for whom the gender signs do not always apply. Not everyone fits into a two-sex system, and nowhere is this more clear than the bathroom issue.

But when you’re running to use the bathroom quickly before a class you’re probably not thinking about this. Using the bathroom is simple for most people–they don’t give a second thought to which bathroom they’re choosing. But what if it wasn’t that easy? What if you were one of the ones standing outside, trying to decide?

There are a lot of different opinions about the transgender bathroom issue, and there are many convincing arguments on both sides of the debate. While I’m still trying to decide exactly where I stand on this issue, I do know one thing I support: gender-neutral bathrooms.

I don’t mean that all bathrooms should be gender-neutral. But I think that offering gender-neutral bathrooms alongside the gendered ones, at least in some parts of a building (perhaps one on each floor, for economic purposes), can lead to less confusion and more acceptance. Simply single-stalled, handicapped bathrooms would often suffice.

There are none of these bathrooms in Meadows.

Mostly I pass bathrooms and see only two options. Rarely do I see a gender-neutral handicapped bathroom, and I have never seen a regular gender-neutral bathroom on SMU’s campus. What does that say about us as a school? It certainly doesn’t portray an image of acceptance and inclusion. What if you could never feel comfortable using the bathroom? Wouldn’t it make your everyday life so much harder?

I don’t think I’m asking for much. All I’m asking for is a few bathrooms, or maybe a few signs changed on some bathrooms, which would mean the world to some people.


The writer of this article has elected to remain anonymous.

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