Since there seems to be legislative confusion over how to label a gender-neutral bathroom, Sam Killerman has a solution.
While ago I had the opportunity to sit in on some meetings where a group was lobbying their state legislators for gender neutral bathrooms. Recently, I attended a town hall where the same issue came up. In both cases, the elected officials were flabbergasted.
One reaction was something along the lines of “This sounds incredibly confusing and difficult. I’m just not sure how we would implement such a thing in government buildings without serious remodeling.”
Another: “But then how will normal people know what restroom to use?”
A third: “OH THE HUMANITY!”
Okay, I made that last one up, but you get the point. Gender neutral restrooms as an idea really freak people out. And I’ve heard people object to some of the signage that’s used when they are actually implemented. The sign to the right is one used at University of Colorado Colorado Springs. I can empathize with why that might be confusing. Most folks might not understand what “gender neutral” means, have never had gender explained to them, and even if you’re familiar with gender identity and diversity [as a visual person myself] the literal interpretation of this image (a half “man” half “woman”) is a disconcerting representation of “gender neutral.”
I decided to put my super sharp visualization cortex part of my brain to work, to see if I could come up with a revolutionary new sign we could use to signify gender neutral bathrooms.
Introducing: The Sam Killermann Super Innovative
Gender Neutral Bathroom Sign
At an alarming, unprecedented 100% success rate, literally every participant in my focus group correctly identified the abstract, gender-neutral concept I came up with to identify a restroom. Granted, my research at this point is limited geographically to Philadelphia, specifically the corner of Sansom & 20th Street, but I have reason to believe that we can generalize beyond this population. I will confirm this as I continue my travels.
Here’s are a couple examples of the sign, hypothetically, in action:
To the final person I surveyed, a self-identified man who begrudgingly gave me his name, Adam, I asked, “If you saw this image on a door, what do you think my be behind that door?”
To which he replied, quickly and confidently, “A person taking a shit. Now can I get back to my lunch?”
Yes you can, Adam. We all can.
Joking Aside, It’s Really Not That Hard
Any one-person, private restroom can (and, I’d argue, should) be a gender neutral restroom. It basically already is. Use whatever sign you’d like, or just do it the British way and put W.C. on the door (I believe it stands for “Who Cares?”).
For group restrooms, or if you’re worried about folks not understanding the sign, put a short explanation below it. I’ve seen this done on a few temporary gender neutral bathrooms at conferences and it works really well. It can also be a great educational opportunity.
If you’re trying to make the world — or just your world (your workplace, building, etc.) — more trans*-friendly, creating a safe, accessible place to relieve oneself is a great way to start.
For a printable version of the sign, go here.