Why do we want single-stall bathrooms?
I believe that if you serve people beverages that make them have to piss, make them more emotional, randy or contemplative (i.e. beer) and you intend for your guests to be around your bar for a few hours, you have a responsibility to ensure they can use your bathrooms in a comfortable, safe way. And in whatever way they need to. And as many times as they need to without waiting in an ungodly line up.
There’s a lot in there, I know. But bathroom needs are serious, immediate needs. And bathrooms aren’t just used to evacuate fluids. They’re used for phone calls, surfing Facebook when you need a breather from your pals or date, making out with someone(s) for a hot minute that’s just a toe over the line of “too much time in the bathroom shit there’s people waiting” and of course ripping farts and standing there while it airs out. There are more things. Mostly all private things you don’t want to do in front of other people.
Most of these things are impossible to do in a multi-stall, typical bathroom. There’s an extra wrench that gets thrown into it for me when I’m greeted with gendered, multi-stall bathrooms. Which is mostly. This doesn’t impact everyone the same way but I’m going to focus on me for a minute here.
Hi Halifax, I’m Georgie, I’m 31, I’m transgender. I use gender-neutral or male pronouns where applicable, and when I go into a bar and I’m faced with gendered, multi-stall bathrooms, I immediately become uncomfortable and uneasy and want to leave the establishment. I mean, physically/presentation-wise I look very masculine but using this type of bathroom is not ideal for me.
Reasons multi-stall bathrooms suck for transgender folks
Reasons it sucks in the Men’s bathroom for me:
- I piss sitting down and people can tell because my boots aren’t facing the toilet.
- If they don’t think about the latter too hard they then hear the toilet paper being pulled and there’s definitely a lightbulb moment for some people.
- I know people notice in the men’s bathroom – because sometimes they eye me up and down when I leave the stall. And it makes me feel gross inside, even though I’m turbo attractive and even if that’s not the intention of the person eyeing me.
- Also men’s bathrooms inevitably smell like dank piss.
Reasons it sucks in the Women’s bathroom for me:
- I present very masculine and most women freak out (obv) if I go into the bathroom (so I don’t anymore ever!)
- In moments while I was beginning to transition, I would still use the women’s bathroom as it was more comfortable for me, and I would feel horrible when people would tell me “you don’t belong here”. Not because I cared I didn’t belong – I did belong and didn’t at the same time and who cares. But I was causing obvious discomfort for the women in the space. And it weighed on me. And it seemed hard and/or unnecessary to explain. And I started holding my pee too frequently and dreading public bathroom use.
From my personal POV based on my identities, there’s this paranoia that goes along with someone “finding out” that I don’t own a penis in men’s multi-stall bathroom situations that creates an unnecessarily jolting experience regardless of how it’s perceived by the other folks in the bathroom. I just get nervous of potential aggression, which has happened in my past and will continue to I’m sure. So when I walk into local bars and taprooms that don’t offer me a comfortable and safe place to piss, I generally leave. Solidarity to trans and non-binary people in these situations, because there are common feelings and consequences for us in bathrooms that other people don’t have to go through.
There are caveats to my bathroom feelings, obviously. For me they are businesses/bars I know very well and have a great relationship with. Like Charlie’s on Maynard! I know the staff so well that I feel very protected there regardless of the gendered bathroom situation. I also acknowledge that staff are not responsible for engineering and building bathrooms. So, you know, support the places and people that support you.
Need-wise, I’m also one of the people that make out in bathrooms, or need a spot to hide on my phone away from my pals. I’m not the person that broke your bar’s bathroom sink though. Because not all people that make out in bathrooms break them, that’s a shitty myth.
What can businesses do?
From a business perspective, if you own a business, I challenge you to consider how many people may feel uncomfortable in the establishment because they can’t piss or cry or poop or make out comfortably. I’ve walked from many a bar I was having a decent time at because I had no access to privacy or my own particular needs around bathroom safety. I do believe that private, single-stall bathrooms are becoming one of the most important fundamental services you can offer someone in a bar for a variety of reasons.
I also understand that for many places – we can’t go back in time and just create single-stall bathrooms. Occupancy for a bar (or any building) is built on both square footage and availability of “male” and “female” bathrooms. And for bars that have been around awhile, there can’t be a sudden expectation to just allocate a budget to bathroom renovations that don’t technically need to happen. That could be too much for a small business to undertake. Though, if you do renovate, you can always pull a Local and go turbo by making your bathrooms multi-single-gender-neutral stalls by walling them in and installing doors that run to the floor. We don’t need to be fancy about it, folks just need to use the space privately.
What I would really like to see are NEW bars that open supporting trans and non-binary folks by designing gender-neutral, single-stall bathrooms. Then, simultaneously, you support people who need a place to have some immediate privacy (pooping, crying, farting, etc.) in order to continue having a good time later. And really, you can never underrate pooping in private, single-stall bathrooms versus pooping in a multi-stall room.
From safety issues for some folks, to comfort and privacy for others – gender neutral, single-stall bathrooms are a great way to show care for people (and let people care for themselves) in a bar or taproom. And while we’re at it! If you see folks in a bathroom who you think “don’t belong there”, remember: It’s truly not your concern, ever, where other people use the bathroom, unless it’s on your floor.
FAQ on gender neutral, single-stall bathrooms
Question: But, Georgie, What about people that don’t understand gender neutral/single-stall bathrooms? How do we explain?
Answer: Gender neutral bathrooms do confuse some people though usually just initially. For most who are new to it, it’s easy to explain.
- “They all have locking doors and are separate rooms, so take your pick!”
- “You can use the bathroom for anything – they’re clean and private if you need a spot for a phone call or what have you”
- “Your bathroom at home is single-stall and gender neutral, it’s the same here!”
Other folks have a harder time with the principle, so if they become persistent (which some do, “but WHICH bathroom is for MEN”), I like to answer with oddness, confidence and mystery.
- “Oh right, sorry for not telling you earlier, men can only pee on the right side of the bathroom or the bar poltergeist starts flushing all the toilets at once and slamming the doors which immediately makes all the customers uneasy obv. Not your fault of course, we’re fine, we’re used to it here, it’s just our manager has to go through this really arduous ritual afterwards” and then slowly shrug.
- “I just stand in the entrance and smell all the stalls one by one, that’s how I pick”
Question: What if there are already single-stall bathrooms in the bar BUT they are separated and gendered? How do I fix this?
Answer: Change the signs on the door, bam!
Question: How would people know they are actually bathrooms without pictures of cartoon stick people on the door?
Answer: Put a picture of the international sign for toilets on the door: A toilet
Question: Since you just said all this shit, does Good Robot have gender neutral, single-stall bathrooms that I can make out and/or cry and/or go on IG and/or poop in?
Got more? All your gender-neutral, single-stall bathroom questions answered by e-mailing [email protected]
Georgie Dudka is Good Robot Brewing’s Events Director.