The Mom Stop: Bathroom debate is long overdue
I find myself, more often than not recently, spending a fair amount of time standing outside the public restrooms at our local county athletic complex.
Sometimes I’ll browse social media on my phone or watch one of the nearby baseball games from my perch leaning against a brick wall. Sometimes I’ll say hello to others as they go in and out of the restrooms and more than once I’ve had good Samaritans ask me if I’m waiting on someone.
In fact, I am. As a mom of a 4-year-old little boy who now refuses to use the women’s restroom but has the bladder the size of a lima bean, a lot of my time is spent waiting on my son outside of restrooms. And also praying that he doesn’t touch unsanitary surfaces, that he doesn’t try to crawl on the restroom floor or get locked in a stall and that he pays attention to what he is doing and doesn’t inadvertently pee on something or someone. (Believe me, that is one call you don’t want to get from your preschool teacher, when your child pees on someone else — on purpose.) Then there’s always the concern about washing hands. Cleanliness seems to be optional for most 4-year-old little boys. While my son may splash around in the sink, he’s not yet tall enough to reach the soap in most public restrooms. When my preschooler says he “washes” his hands, it more than likely means a single drop of water touched his grimy, chubby little fingers.
He’s not worried about bacteria or viruses. A little dirt on the hands is the sign of a good day, and I’m glad for that. But potty breaks with a very tall 4-year-old who feels he’s too old to go with me to the ladies restroom has its difficulties. Similarly, my 7-year-old daughter is too old to accompany my husband to the public men’s restroom.
The topic of public restrooms has hit the national news recently after North Carolina legislators passed a bill March 23 barring transgender people from bathrooms and locker rooms that do not match the gender on their birth certificates. Supporters of the law state that the rights of the majority should be protected, and that it’s not ok that boys should be allowed in girls’ restrooms, locker rooms or shower facilities in schools, that women should not be allowed into men’s restrooms solely based on their gender identity.
However, on April 19 a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia., ruled in favor of a transgender student who was born female and wishes to use the boys’ restroom at his rural Virginia high school. The impact of the ruling could be huge — it’s the first time that a federal appellate court has ruled that Title IX protects a student’s right to use the bathroom that corresponds with his or her gender identity, not just the gender at birth.
Meanwhile, local businesses have been setting their own policies. Target announced last week they will allow people to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. Some businesses like Kroger have “unisex” or “family” bathrooms to meet the needs of not only the LGBTQ community, but families who need non-gender specific, single toilet restrooms.
I am not worried about my safety or my children’s safety because of transgender people using public restrooms or locker rooms. If that is where they feel they belong, then who am I to say differently? There are a lot bigger things to be concerned with in this world.
However, I applaud businesses who are instituting unisex or “family” bathrooms in addition to the standard women’s and men’s restrooms. It’s been needed for a very long time — for a variety of reasons — long before the current debate.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.