Editorials

California is adult in the room amid childishness over bathrooms

“All-gender” restrooms have been introduced at Naropa University’s Nalanda Campus in Boulder, Colo.
“All-gender” restrooms have been introduced at Naropa University’s Nalanda Campus in Boulder, Colo. Daily Camera

Maybe it’s misguided pearl clutching. Maybe it’s a fear of catching cooties. Either way, the stink some states are making about who can share which public restroom is truly unfortunate.

Using the bathroom is, after all, a human necessity. Gender is irrelevant to the equation.

But that hasn’t stopped lawmakers in Washington state, who want to make it legal to ban transgender people from certain restrooms. Or lawmakers in Indiana and Virginia, who wanted to fine people for using the “wrong” restrooms. Or lawmakers in South Dakota, who are considering a bill that would require students to use restrooms based on their “chromosomes.”

South Dakota’s Rep. Thomas Brunner rationalized it this way: “Most of us are pretty traditional. We raised a family and we just think it's a lot simpler that girls use the girls’ bathroom and boys use the boys’ bathroom.”

Indiana’s Sen. Jim Tomes was more blunt: “If you were born a man, then you are obliged to use the males’ restroom.”

Nonsense. And if that’s the best the scaremongers can do, the cultural wars are literally in the toilet.

Thankfully, California has found a more sensible option. The state has already twice blocked measures to roll back legal protections for transgender public school students. Now the University of California is removing gender-specific signs on single-stall public restrooms throughout the system. Instead of symbols of men with pants and women with skirts, by March 1, each merely will be labeled “restroom.”

That’s in addition to a policy requiring gender-inclusive restrooms and changing rooms to be installed in every new building and every newly renovated building on a UC campus. It’s a matter of safety for transgender and gender-nonconforming students, who are often targets for harassment in multi-stall restrooms. But gender-inclusive restrooms also are more comfortable for parents with children of the opposite sex and for caregivers of those of a different gender.

As UC spokesman Grant Nejedlo told The Bee’s Darrell Smith, the idea is this: “Simply removing signage that depicts gendered individuals in skirts or trousers and replacing them with signage that takes gender out of the equation and truly creates a restroom for everyone.”

This is also the thinking behind a bill introduced by Assembly member Phil Ting, D-San Francisco.

AB 1732 would require any single-stall toilet inside of a business, government building or other public space to be identified “all-gender.” There are no restrictions on what the sign should look like to convey that.

There is no reason this bill shouldn’t pass. There are few greater equalizers than the call of nature. We all deserve equal access.

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