Day #093: Neutralize bathrooms

The low hanging fruit of building a more inclusive Richmond.

Inspired by Michael Bierut’s 100 Day Project, 100 Days to a Better RVA strives to introduce and investigate unique ideas to improving the city of Richmond. View the entire project here and the intro here.

  • Idea: Neutralize as many bathrooms in Richmond as possible.
  • Difficulty: 1 — It isn’t practical everywhere, but it’s an easy step to building a more accommodating and open Richmond.

Some things are so subtle that you don’t notice them, until you do. And then, you can’t stop noticing them.

A year ago, I was unaware of LGBT safer bathrooms. Now, they are a daily reminder at VCU of how quickly the world is changing. VCU should update the signage for these gender-neutral restrooms, and businesses and public buildings around Richmond should make an effort to neutralize as many restrooms as possible.

While far from a perfectly open and accepting world for LGBTQ residents, Richmond is experiencing rapid changes in an attempt to build a better environment for all residents. In 2004, no one could have convinced me that Virginia would leagalize same-sex marriage in 2014. Fortunately, I was wrong. But progress still needs to be made.

Bathrooms with binary gender classifications are not representative of the real world. Gender identity and gender expression are better represented by a spectrum than any two buckets. Male and female bathrooms create the potential for other gender expressions to feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

The low hanging fruit of building a more inclusive society is neutralizing bathrooms. For single restrooms this simply requires a change of signs. In the VCU Honors College for instance, there used to be a single men’s handicap accessible restroom and a single women’s handicap accessible restroom. Now they both have:


But VCU can do better. Sam Killermann and teamed up to create all-gender bathroom signs. Instead of symbols for men and women, or a half man/half woman symbol, the signs simply has a toilet. Killermann donated all of his profits from the design to the Transgender Law Center, and they are now giving the signs to college campuses for free.

Changes are a little more difficult and expensive for multiple-occupancy restrooms. Many advocate stalls with floor to ceiling walls and shared sinks. Opponents claim they can create situations that are uncomfortable for women or victims of sexual assault. Whether all bathrooms should be gender-neutral or there should simply be gender-neutral alternatives is still a source of debate.

In the meantime, many new buildings have been adding family restrooms in addition to large male/female restrooms as an alternative. Like single-occupancy gender bathrooms, these have the added benefit of typically being ADA compliant and help parents and caregivers whose children are a different gender.

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Richmond has a long way to go to being a society that is open and welcoming to everyone. Neutralizing bathrooms is one of the easiest policies we can adopt in our pursuit of this goal.

Love this idea? Think it’s terrible? Have one that’s ten times better? Head over to the 100 Days to a Better RVA Facebook page and join in the conversation.

Photo by: Andrei Z

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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