The curtain raised on peeing with girls

I was at a Moth StorySLAM in Cambridge last week and I found myself in a gender-neutral restroom, which I have used many, many times.

Men and women peeing in the same room. Stalls and urinals.

It was a little surprising the first time I entered this restroom and encountered women, but two years later, it’s absolutely, positively no big deal.

Except sometimes I get to learn something that I didn’t know.

Last week, I was using a urinal while two women occupied stalls to the right, talking to each other through the partitions. They talked for about a minute, engaged in a lively discussion, before one of the women said, “Okay, we need to stop talking for a second and just pee.”

And they did.

I found this amusing. Does this happen all the time, or was I experiencing a one-off moment?

It’s not unusual for two men to talk while using urinals, but we are presumably peeing while speaking. I’ve never felt the need to pause before speaking. Sometimes I'm even shouting across a crowded restroom in Gillette Stadium, asking my friend to meet me in a certain location once we’re finished.

So maybe this was an unusual and amusing moment, or maybe not. With more men and women occupying the same restroom space, mysteries will be revealed. The curtain will be pulled back.

Either way, it wasn’t a big deal, and it’s still not a big deal to me. Memorable and amusing but nothing more.

I know others disagree. Given that the Vice President doesn’t allow himself to have dinner with a woman unless his wife is present, I suspect that peeing in the same room as a woman might cause him heart failure.

But I also suspect that for Mike Pence and others opposed to these gender neutral restrooms, their historical lens is shortsighted.

Less than a lifetime ago, there were places in this country where the notion that African Americans and whites could sit alongside each other at lunch counters or on public transportation prompted outrage and violence. Not too long ago (and still in some places today), an African American man would be taking his life in his hands if he dared to date a white woman.

The Supreme Court decision allowing for interracial marriage was decided just 50 years ago. This means that the marriage that produced President Obama would have been illegal in many American states at the time of his birth.

What seems ridiculous or impossible or uncomfortable today will be commonplace tomorrow. As human beings, we tend to view the world through the limited lens of the present, and happily, progress often happens faster than we think.

Had you asked me 20 years ago if I would see an African American President, legalized same sex marriage, legalized marijuana, or gender neutral restrooms in my lifetime, I would have said no.

Thankfully I would’ve been wrong.

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There is no reason to delay the use of signage like this.

I understand that not everyone is ready for universal restrooms.

While I may use a restroom at a place like Oberon in Cambridge, MA, which has a large restroom of stalls and urinals used by all genders simultaneously, it's simply too much for some people.

When genitals are privately exposed for the purpose of elimination, they must only be privately exposed amongst their own kind. Strict segregation of penis and vulva at all times in public spaces is a nonnegotiable for many people.  

Note: Vulva is the correct term for the external female sex organ. The vagina is actually the internal genital tract extending from the vulva to the cervix, but for some reason, it is often used  incorrectly in place of the anatomically-correct vulva.

Someday, universal restrooms will be commonplace. People of all genders will enter a single space for the purpose of elimination, and no one will give a damn. Future generations will undoubtedly scoff at our bizarre need for genital segregation in the same way most of us scoff at the idea of segregating the races on a bus, a lunch counter, or a school. 

But some of us aren't ready for genital desegregation yet. I understand. Change is hard. Fear is a powerful force, even when it's unwarranted and misguided. Altering a longstanding norm can take time.  

But in the cases when a public restroom is a single serve space with a lock on the door, why can't we at least dispose of the male and female distinctions and use something more appropriate like this outstanding sign located at RJ Julia Booksellers in Middletown, CT?

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Not only is this sign more respectful and inclusive to all genders, but it makes no sense for three women to be waiting for their single use restroom while the restroom designated for men is empty.

From a perspective of efficiency, this is a change that must be made.

More importantly, signage like this demonstrates the necessary level of respect, inclusivity, and civility that should be afforded to people of all genders, as well as a much needed acknowledgement that gender is not always a binary proposition, and that all people deserve to live their most authentic lives absent of stigma, bias, or fear. 

Gender binary signage should already be a thing of the past, at least in the case of single use restrooms. This is a small but meaningful step that even the most ardent traditionalists and most staunch genital segregation advocates would be hard pressed to oppose.

If you own a business with single-use restrooms equipped with gender binary signage, change it today. Make the world a little more efficient for all human beings and a little more accepting to people of all genders and forms of gender expression.

As long as you're not as sexually repressed as the Vice President, the gender-neutral restroom is working just fine

During intermission at last night's Moth StorySLAM at The Oberon in Cambridge, I went to the restroom.

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The Oberon has converted its formerly gender-specific restrooms to gender-neutral restrooms. When I entered what was once a men's room, I was greeted with the typical line that can be found during intermission, except that this line contained both women and men. 

Nine people in all. Five women and four men were queued up in front of the four urinals and three stalls. Some were chatting while waiting. Others scrolled through their phones. As far as I could tell, no one thought this odd or inappropriate.

And why would they?

Women used the stalls. Men used the urinals or the stalls.  

One of the women in line actually knew me from previous performances and asked me for some storytelling advice while we waited to pee. 

For someone like the Vice President, who can't have dinner alone with a woman who isn't his wife or drink a beer when his wife is not present, I would imagine that this scenario might cause him to blow a gasket. His seemingly admitted inability to control his lustful desires might erupt into an uncontrollable fervor at the mere thought of a semi-naked woman behind a thin restroom partition.   

But for the majority of Americans who operate as normal human beings and who aren't so fearful of temptation that they must quarantine themselves from the opposite sex without a marital chaperone, this gender-neutral reconfiguration is working out just fine.      

Perhaps in the future the restroom design could be differentiated this way:

Gender-neutral restrooms

Single use restroom for the perverse who can't control themselves when genitals are exposed privately but in the vicinity of their own genitals

I went to the bathroom alongside a bunch of ladies, and something surprising happened.

I competed last night at a Moth StorySLAM at The Oberon in Cambridge, MA. 

The Oberon has two restrooms. When I started performing there in 2013, these restrooms were identified by placards as "Men" and "Women."

About a year ago, the "Men" and "Women" placards were replaced with placards that read "All Gender." Since then, I had only found myself in the restroom with a woman once, and it was alongside several other men. Though the placards had changed, people for the most part continued to segregate themselves according to sex.

Last night, however, I found myself in the restroom at one point with one other man and three women, and when that man exited the restroom ahead of me, I was the only man in the restroom with these women. I almost didn't notice, but as I stood at the sink washing my hands alongside two of the women, it occurred to me that I was using a public restroom with a majority of women for the first time in my life.

Also, none of us cared a bit.

At the end of the night, I returned to the restroom and found myself alone with one other woman. As we approached the sink together, we began talking. I had won the StorySLAM, and she had recognized me from my previous victories and wanted to know how I managed to win so often. As we washed our hands, I gave her a few storytelling tips, and she told me about her battles with stage fright and her desire to tell a story someday. 

I was back on the street, walking to my car, when I realized that I had just engaged in my first conversation with a woman in a public restroom, and I couldn't get over these two facts:

  1. It was no big deal at all. 
  2. So many dumbass jerk faces (I'm looking at you, North Carolina) think it's a very big deal.

If your opposed to allowing people to use the restroom of their choice, it's time to put on your big boy or big girl pants and grow up. Sooner than you think, "all gender" or "gender neutral" restrooms will be the norm, and people will wonder why gender segregation was once required in order for people to sit on toilets and wash their hands. 

After last night, I'm wondering it myself.

If you're using The Bible to support your opposition to same sex marriage and transgender restroom choice, you're simply obsessed with penises and vaginas.

It's not often that you can cheer on corporations for all the good they do, but on Monday, under increasing pressure from major corporations like Unilever, Disney, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and the NFL, Gov. Nathan Deal announced he will veto a bill that critics say would have curtailed the rights of Georgia's LGBT community.

House Bill 757 would have given faith-based organizations in Georgia the option to deny services and jobs to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. 

Also on Monday, a federal lawsuit was filed against the North Carolina governor and other state officials over a new law there that blocks transgender individuals from using public bathrooms that match their gender identity and stops cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances to protect gay and transgender people.

I can't help but think that if these conservatives would just stop obsessing over penises and vaginas, the world would be a lot better place.

And it really is an obsession. Same sex marriage. Transgender restroom choice. All of this amounts to where and how a person chooses to make use of their genitalia - even though said usage is almost never being done in public and does not impact the lives of these genitally-obsessed bigots in any way. 

It's an obvious and bizarre attempt to legislate the use of genitals, often based upon a religious text that also forbids the tattoos and the trimming of beards and calls for the stoning to death of anyone who works on Sunday. It's buffet-style Bible reading, and these people are choosing penises and vaginas over the pork tenderloin every time.

Let's put it this way:

If opponents of same sex marriage and transgender bathroom choice are basing their positions on religion - and in these cases, they have said as much - but these same opponents are also shaving on a regular basis, doing business with people with tattoos, and working (or even doing business with people who are working on Sunday), then this isn't really about religion or God or The Bible.

It comes down to a simple and bizarre obsession over penises and vaginas.

These people can't stop thinking about, obsessing over, and desiring command of our nation's genitalia. They are penis and vagina enthusiasts. They are seeking dictatorial control over the parts of the body typically concealed by underwear. 

All of this trouble because the conservative movement can't get their minds and hearts and heads out of other people's pants. 

Truly. It makes no sense.

Boy vs. Girl: Episode 3 - Gender-Neutral Bathrooms, Salutations, and Bathing Suit Bottoms

Episode 3 of Boy Vs. Girl, our podcast about gender and gender stereotypes, dropped today. Listen to Rachel and I discuss the problems with gender neutral bathroom, the need to change female salutations, and the real reasons why women wear form-fitting bathing suit bottoms and men do not.

If you've missed any of our previous episodes, you can find them here

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If you like what you hear, please consider leaving us a review in iTunes. Reviews help listeners find the podcast, and the more listeners we have, the more likely Rachel and I will become ridiculously wealthy and be able to spend our days lounging on a Tahitian beach.