Bathroom Story: Thoughts

| August 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

I’ve learned a lot from things that happen in bathrooms.

I’ve seen women hurriedly back out of a bathroom, because they thought it was a men’s room. I’ve seen a man sprint for his life after he mistakenly walked into a women’s bathroom.

It doesn’t seem natural that simply walking into a room can cause such panic.

Why does a simple picture on a wall cause us to behave so bizarrely? Our ancient ancestors would find us ridiculous. A basic universal activity, one we are biologically compelled to do on a daily basis–need it be so fraught?

photo credit: Glory via photopin (license)

Just a picture on a wall. photo credit: x via photopin (license)

There’s nothing particularly “female” or “male” about a bathroom. It’s a room with toilets and sinks in it.

So why is it such a big deal?

Here’s what I think. Bathrooms are places where the gender binary is embodied as visible architecture. All the fuss comes from the equally solid walls in our minds.

So someone in the bathroom does not look as you expect. Where is the danger? There is no personal threat in someone looking different. But there is a threat to some of society’s most deeply entrenched myths.

Society–and the existing power structures based on gender–would be severely destabilized if all our preconceptions of gender and its binary nature fell away. Why do people lose their minds over small matters such as these? Even a seemingly small matter, such as where people relieve their bladders, is actually deeply tied to the status quo.

When these preconceptions are carried to their extreme, they can make bathrooms dangerous places for gender nonconforming people. (Here’s one person’s account.)

Going to the bathroom shouldn’t be a trial. If you have never had to think about it before, I invite you to start. We all have much to learn from our preconceptions and the things that disturb them.


Here are resources if you are interested in learning more about gender and the gender binary, or if you have questions about bathrooms and gender.

photo credit: x via photopin(license)

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Category: featured, Politics, Reflections, The (Sex)es

Huey Wu

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Huey Wu is a Senior studying Comparative Literature. When not writing in a journal, writing for class, or working as a writing tutor, they enjoy volleyball, puzzles, and gentle company.

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