A Museum In England Has A Gender Neutral Bathroom And The Federalist Is On The Case!
Last month, a picture of a gender neutral restroom at the Charleston Trust, an art gallery located in a historic house in Lewes, England, caused a bit of a stir online — or at least in The Daily Mail — due to the presence of urinals in said gender neutral restrooms.
This may have been a fair criticism, if only there were not two separate gender neutral restrooms, one with urinals and one without, and also additional non-gender neutral bathrooms on the property as well. Options for everyone! It seems fairly obvious to me, or anyone else with half a brain, that the Charleston Trust had simply converted two non-gender neutral bathrooms into gender neutral bathrooms. Duh.
The Charleston Trust explained on Twitter that they opened the two gender neutral restrooms in September of 2018 to "help members of the queer and trans community feel safe with us, and to ensure disabled visitors who need assistance are not troubled by the gender of their carer." They then explained that the gender neutral restrooms with urinals are clearly labeled as such, and that they are looking into removing them in order "to make both toilet blocks truly gender-inclusive."
It is hard to see how anyone could actually have an issue with this. I mean, even if you really hate trans people, there is a non-gender neutral bathroom that you can use! What more could you want? And yet, a month later, The Federalist is on the case.
I don't want to say that I have a "favorite" Federalist columnist, but if I did, it would have to be Georgi Boorman. Boorman is the columnist who, back in September, wrote an entire essay claiming that abortion was not necessary for ectopic pregnancies, because the fetus will either die on its own or will self-deport from the fallopian tube back to the uterus, and also because, she claimed, people don't actually die from untreated ectopic pregnancies and that ruptured fallopian tubes are no big.
It was so stupid and so roundly criticized that Boorman was forced to do what few Federalist columnists have done, and walked that shit back a few days later. Unfortunately, just a few months later, Ohio Republicans put forward a bill that would require doctors to "reimplant" ectopic pregnancies, despite the fact that this is not medically possible to do.
And now Boorman is back! And boy is she ever mad about this month-old story about gender inclusive bathrooms in a museum in England!
Over the years, we've heard a lot of truly stupid arguments against letting trans people pee in public restrooms — that they'll just come into the restrooms and just start walking around naked for no reason, resulting in someone's four-year-old daughter seeing a penis, that cisgender men will pretend to be trans in order to go into the ladies room and commit an act of sexual assault (HOT TIP: Women can sexually assault other women too! Just ask these women who were sexually assaulted by nuns.), etc. etc.
But Boorman is claiming that the mere existence of not only gender neutral, but single occupancy bathrooms "rob[s] women of an important cultural" space wherein cisgender women can gather and bond:
The women's room is where women get real with each other and with themselves. It's where they gather to regroup when social situations get awkward or intense or they need to communicate in private. It's where chit-chat warms women up to each other in a world where it's easy to turn a cold shoulder or entertain suspicion or false ideas of what other women are like.
What lipstick is that? Where did you get your purse? Could you spare a tampon? Those questions might seem trivial to men, but they are part of the social cohesion that isn't fully appreciated until it's gone. Plus, sometimes you really need a tampon.
The resistance to eliminating women's rooms was never just about sexual abuse or having regular moments of awkwardness. The bathroom is where women go to take deep, slow breaths to overcome their anxiety before an interview or presentation. It's where teenagers vent to each other. It's where broken hearts spill out in hot tears onto wet counters, and blessed strangers come alongside to offer comfort. You think all that's going to happen in unisex washrooms?
I'm gonna say that's a little much. First of all, no one is "eliminating women's rooms." The Charleston Trust was not "eliminating women's rooms," as evidenced by the fact that they still have a "women's room." The existence of a gender neutral restroom doesn't make a women's room disappear anymore than a men's room makes a women's room disappear. It's just math! If you don't want to use a gender neutral restroom, don't use a gender neutral restroom.
Of course, Boorman isn't just referring to gender neutral bathrooms. Because most of this conversation has not been about gender neutral bathrooms and single stall bathrooms, which by the way, have existed as long as there have been private homes with indoor plumbing and dive bars and grocery stores and people in wheelchairs and parents of children too young to go into a bathroom on their own. It has been about trans women using women's restrooms and trans men using men's bathrooms. I do not know about Boorman, but I have been in restrooms with cisgender women who don't have a tampon, I have been in restrooms with cisgender women who do not menstruate, and I am perfectly capable of asking a trans woman where she bought her lipstick or purse. Hell, I have, in fact, asked cisgender men where they have gotten their lipstick or purse.
As usual, it appears as though, as creative as she is, Boorman has just really not thought this one through very well. Perhaps someday, if she keeps trying, she will hit upon a really clever point of some kind, but this ain't it.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse