how should we respond to complaints about a non-binary guest in the bathrooms?

A reader writes:

I manage a high end resort-like property that has a mix of short term guests (vacationers) and long-term guests (residents). We aren’t big enough for a separate HR department, so that usually falls to me and/or our CFO. Our amenities such as the fitness center, clubhouse, and the pool/spa are open to all guests; they are not separated by length of stay.

We have a long-term guest, let’s call them Pat, who has been a resident about six years. A couple of years ago, they came out as non-binary and for the most part this has been a non-issue. All of our staff and other residents have been wonderful and accepting of Pat, which I’ll admit was kind of a relief as we are in a very conservative part of the country. Pat has a traditionally masculine job (think construction worker) and when in work clothes, they are very male-presenting (tall, muscularly built, facial stubble at times). Pat also often appears very feminine, although this is usually at social functions, etc.

Recently my staff at the front desk, in an effort to be proactive, asked me for a “script,” some guidance on how they could respond to the complaints/concerns they are anticipating this summer regarding Pat’s use of the bathroom/shower facilities at the resort. Pat often utilizes the facilities after work and while still in their work clothes, and tends to use whichever bathroom/shower they feel like, male or female. We do not have a family/unisex bathroom/shower, and nowhere to realistically add one. Our summer vacationer demographic tends to be older and more traditional/conservative, so the desk staff are no doubt correct in their anticipation of complaints about “a man” in the women’s bathroom/shower.

To be clear, we have no intention of addressing this with Pat, I don’t feel like they are doing anything wrong, they have been nothing but understanding and respectful to everyone, even those who may have been less than supportive to their coming out. However, I’m at a loss with what to tell our desk staff to say when, for example, they’re approached by an angry husband whose wife or daughters were “scared” by a “man” in the ladies bathroom/shower. The toilet stalls all have doors, and the showers all have their own non-see-through shower curtains, but the sink/mirror areas are common. How do we support Pat while addressing the concerns of other guests?

Additionally, we can’t just assume every report of a man in the ladies room is Pat. We do have to go check it out each time to make sure we don’t have someone acting inappropriately – that would be extremely rare but not impossible, so we do have to investigate every complaint. I’m leaning towards having the desk staff just say what they normally would, whether or not they suspect that the complaint is about Pat, thank the guest for bringing it to our attention, and send a crew member to make sure.

Is there something more we should say? Is there something I should be sure the desk staff does NOT say? One last twist, this resort doesn’t always have a female staff member on duty or available, so if we get a complaint when we only have male staff on duty, to investigate they’d have to knock, announce their presence, etc. before entering the ladies bathroom/shower. I really don’t think it’s appropriate to be calling attention to Pat like this, assuming it could realistically happen multiple times over the course of the summer when they are using the bathroom/shower. Am I overthinking this? I know there’s a fine line between being proactive and looking for problems where they don’t exist, but considering my staff has asked for assistance with this, I feel like I need to provide them with something.

This one is outside of my wheelhouse, so I asked two experts to weigh in.

First I spoke with Dianna Anderson, the author of the upcoming book In Transit: Being Non-Binary in a World of Dichotomies, who had this to say:

Oooh this is a tricky one, because, yeah, the ideal solution would be a unisex area/family room, at least it would be for me as a non-binary person. Others may feel differently, and it sounds like Pat goes where the mood takes them, which hey, is also a thing I plan on doing now that I’ve had top surgery. I’m glad that the resort has been accommodating to Pat and wants to make sure they feel comfortable in what is essentially their living space.

And the writer is right to want to set out a script beforehand and it might not be bad to make it an official policy at the resort. Typically, such a policy would read that “[Resort] does not discriminate on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, or ability. As such, we welcome guests to use the restroom that is consistent with their gender identity.” Many spas will also have this posted somewhere near the locker rooms so guests know that not everyone in the rooms may look like them.

Their instinct is also right that singling out Pat would likely make Pat uncomfortable, so front desk staff should be clear to reiterate the resort policy. Since it is their policy to investigate every claim (which is a good one because it could be someone else making a problem), that’s still a decent thing to keep up. Trust that Pat already knows this is a probability, and will likely be able to see it happening (unfortunately, we non-binary people are often hyper-aware of when people think we’re in the wrong place, because those people are also not subtle). The important thing to remember is that Pat is not the problem here. The problem is people deciding that they get to police what other people look like.

One more thing to note would be to ensure a privacy policy is in place for guests as well — make it explicit that guests taking pictures, filming, or otherwise putting other guests’ privacy at risk in the restrooms and private areas will not be tolerated. There are, unfortunately, a number of anti-trans activists who will attempt to film trans and non-binary people simply existing in gendered spaces. Having a no tolerance policy for any of that behavior can make it possible to kick out any guests who might be inclined to sneak a photo of Pat in the restroom. There’s an unfortunate element of transphobic media that loves that kind of stuff, so having actionable policy in place if it happens is good.

I also spoke with Kira-Lynn Ferderber, a safety and inclusion expert for the hospitality sector, who was also really helpful:

It’s great that you want to be inclusive of this one guest, and I think the questions you’re asking get at a larger issue, beyond just Pat. Even in a conservative or older community there are non-binary people and others who benefit from inclusive, thoughtful policies regarding bathrooms. And if you can’t imagine this issue coming up again at your facilities, consider the visits of the children and grandchildren whose parents and grandparents stay at the property.

In terms of front desk complaints, you’ve designed a system where non-binary people must use an “incorrect” bathroom, because you only have binary, gendered bathrooms. One thing I would suggest is an inclusivity audit from a local LGBTQ+ agency, thinking about how you might design the amenities if you were trying to be welcoming regardless of Pat. If a non-gendered bathroom is off the table for you, you have to admit that you’ve designed a confusing situation, even unintentionally, and this confusion may lead to questions from non-binary guests and others.

The honest “script” in response to complaints about someone “in the wrong bathroom” is to say just what you’ve laid out in your letter, which is: “We permit our guests to use whichever bathroom is most comfortable for them,” because in the case of Pat, you do. And presumably this will be true of future non-binary guests, though if a staff remember physically responds to a call they may find someone whom the employee doesn’t realize is non-binary. This is the problem with an unwritten policy where one person is the exception. By making an allowance only for non-binary guests with whom you are familiar, you are requiring each individual to come out to all staff, over and over, and you’re requiring them to do so without the knowledge that once they do, they will be included in this unofficial Pat Loophole. This is not very hospitable hospitality.

If your preference remains to handle non-binary guests on a case-by-case basis, you could include something at guest registration or check-in, such as a drop down menu of pronouns or prefixes, or an open-ended comment area where you ask about gender identity and accommodations. Be aware of local or national laws regarding non-discrimination as you write this. But this self-identifying option won’t cover everyone: even with the direct question, some people will never come out in a situation that isn’t openly and proactively advertising that they are inclusive, which you are not. As well, this kind of check-in likely won’t reach the guests of your guests and other visitors.

While the rights of non-binary people are as good a reason as any to make a more inclusive policy, remember that non-gendered bathrooms help more than just non-binary or genderqueer people: anyone who might be helping out a person of a different gender may be relieved not to face a barrier of a ”women’s only” or “men’s only” room. This could include a dad and a young daughter, a woman and her elderly father who needs assistance, a heterosexual couple where one person acts as an aid to another, and many other medical and personal reasons.

If the facilities will remain gendered, I’d recommend posting a sign, something to the effect of: “While we do not have a non-gendered bathroom, our nonbinary guests are welcome to use whichever facility they prefer.” This is your current policy, even if ad hoc, and while you may be afraid to display this openly, clear communication will be better in the long run. Perhaps you can address it more thoroughly in your newsletter, or on your website or social media – wherever you communicate to guests about other policies related to the facilities. If you are dreading backlash to this kind of announcement, consider whether it really is preferable for guests to learn the policy through a series of ongoing complaints, one at a time, catching people off-guard in vulnerable situations such as showering.

Finally, I’d like to suggest asking your guests what they want! Maybe a question about inclusivity needs could be part of some kind of client survey. I know you stated that a new bathroom is not an option, but support for it from your paying customers might go a long way in convincing decision-makers. I’d also challenge the idea that it’s impossible to have a non-gendered bathroom: what would you do if it was made the law tomorrow? What would you do if 100% of your guests wanted it created or they wouldn’t come back? Perhaps there’s a staff bathroom or other facility that can be converted. Perhaps you could talk to other businesses about what their solution has been.

Another guest you could ask is Pat themselves. If Pat came out to you directly, I don’t think it’s out of line to respond with (or go back to them and say), “Thank you for telling me that. I want you to continue to feel welcome and comfortable here. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to accommodate you.” While you don’t want Pat to shoulder the obligation of educating you and consulting for you for free, they might have ideas and insights they want to share, as the best expert you know in what it is like to be a non-binary user of your amenities. Keep in mind though, if you solicit feedback from Pat or any other non-binary guest, you should have the intention and capacity to at least attempt to fulfill their requests.

Excellent advice from both contributors, and I hope it helps.

In discussion in the comment section, please note Dianna uses they/them pronouns, and Kira-Lynn uses they/them or she/her.

{ 382 comments… read them below }

  1. ConfusedAcademic*

    Just coming to say that I love that AAM is a (relatively) safe and inclusive community where questions like this can be asked and compassionately and thoughtfully answered. I also trust the commenters will be mostly respectful and compassionate.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yes, and I also want to say thank you to the letter writer and their staff for thinking about this proactively! It speaks very well of the staff that they are thinking about this before any potential comments/complaints from other guests, and very well of the OP that they are willing to reach out for help.

  2. Charlotte Lucas*

    I would like to point out that the non-gendered bathrooms are just more inclusive in general. They’re more likely to be accessible (and comfortable!) for people with mobility issues or other disabilities, they make it easier for parents with small children, they are easier for people with many bags (like many tourists) to negotiate, & they are just nicer in general.

    I know you said that’s not an option right now, but I think you could bring up all these considerations to your owners. In fact if your clientele skews older, I bet they’d appreciate a redesign, no matter the reason.

      1. opinion haver*

        Depending on the state it might not be. Some states have laws that certain types of business must have a certain number of binary gendered bathrooms (the number depends on various factors like number of employees, etc). One place I worked at worked around this by making sure all bathrooms were stocked with the same products (for things like tampons and other menstrual products) and having signage that basically said “the law requires gendered bathrooms, but please use whichever you feel more comfortable with”.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Sorry! I wasn’t clear! I meant single-person non- gendered bathrooms. I don’t think that any law defines whether businesses can or can’t have those. Except laws that require at least one.

          1. N*

            It varies wildly by area but sometimes building/plumbing codes actually spell out how many bathrooms there must be and a gender split, even with single occupancy toilets.

            1. Cremedelagremlin*

              I have never understood why single-occupancy bathrooms are gendered. I wonder why it’s required by some codes (ie: if there is any other reason besides unexamined heteronormativity). At one of my favourite hiking spots, there are two OUTHOUSES and until recently, those even had gendered signs on them…it’s a hole in the ground!

              At a local swimming pool where I live, they have a women’s changeroom, a men’s changeroom and a family changeroom which is a group changing area for people of all genders (likely designed in part to cater to the situation mentioned above of a person caring for another person of a different gender).

              If at all possible, this seems like the best solution to the issue.

              With only two rooms, it seems like there are opposite (unfortunate) possibilities lurking with a dual “use the facility you feel comfortable in/report any violations of privacy” system:

              -that a creepy dude might take advantage to use the women’s room for nefarious purposes (which, while an insulting crutch of anti-trans arguments and most likely very rare, does in fact happen – when I was in university, we had a guy who was filming women under the bathroom stall walls…campus security deemed it “not a big enough problem” to do anything about so we basically had to check the stalls ourselves for a guy with a video camera every time we used a bathroom facility, which doesn’t exactly promote a feeling of safety.) So – how to appropriately address genuine safety concerns without harassing non-binary and trans guests in the process?

              -that a bigoted guest will interpret the mere presence of a person in the women’s bathroom who isn’t female-presenting “enough” for them as a violation of their privacy and report it (possibly exaggerating their claim for effect…), expecting something to be done and causing embarrassment/an unsafe environment for that person in the process.

              I wonder what are some ways that an org with this kind of policy can ensure the comfort and safety of non-binary and trans guests who are using their preferred bathroom? Especially in a region where they are likely to encounter resistance.

              1. Stuff*

                Can I just point out that “So – how to appropriately address genuine safety concerns without harassing non-binary and trans guests in the process?” is being presented as much harder than it actually is, here? The solution to the issue you brought up is banning all photography and video and audio recording in the bathroom, and having security that is actually willing to intervene when that rule is violated. Which has nothing to do with Trans people being able to use the bathroom. Your story doesn’t even involve Trans people that we know of. It’s not an issue caused by or enabled by accomodating Trans people, and it’s an issue with ready solutions.

                1. wittyrepartee*

                  And have the doors go all the way down to the ground! And maybe have the bathroom doors lead into a relatively visible area with a sink rather than a scary hidden nook.

              2. irritable vowel*

                I think there must be some misguided idea that “men are gross, so let’s give women their own single-occupancy bathroom,” which doesn’t take into account the reality that women make as much of a mess in bathrooms as men do.

                1. Honey*

                  Have you visited any men’s rooms lately? Because as someone who used to be responsible for cleaning both, I have first-hand proof that the sloppiest females can never rise to the disgustingness that males create in their bathrooms.

              3. Onyx*

                How would you deal with a creepy woman filming other women underneath the stall walls?

                In the case of your campus security, the answer seems to be “very badly and without fixing anything,” but the ultimate problem was allowing *anyone* to spy on and film people in restroom stalls, regardless of their gender. Allowing a woman to get away with it (or a man in the men’s room) would also be hideously inappropriate but could not be solved by enforcing people using the “correct” restroom, so the solution needs to lie in banning the inappropriate *behavior* and enforcing that.

              4. Littorally*

                -that a creepy dude might take advantage to use the women’s room for nefarious purposes (which, while an insulting crutch of anti-trans arguments and most likely very rare, does in fact happen

                You are approaching this from completely the wrong attitude, for a few reasons:
                #1 – if someone is going to commit violations of normal social boundaries and behave in a sexually aggressive way in the bathroom, it does not matter what the rules or policies are; they are already demonstrating that rules won’t stop them
                #2 – This argument presupposes that a person behaving badly in a restroom gendered for women will necessarily be male.

                The example you provided wasn’t a restroom gender policy problem, it was a security not giving a fuck problem. The bad behavior needs to be addressed regardless of the gender of the person behaving badly.

              5. MM*

                One possible explanation (I don’t know that this is the case, but it’s what is coming to mind) for the laws around gendered bathrooms: in the days when it was assumed women didn’t work–or even belong–in certain kinds of places, there often were not enough women’s bathrooms, if any. This has been an issue in the actual Senate. It came up also in Hidden Figures (with the added layer of needing a bathroom that a Black woman could use in a de jure segregated situation). These kinds of physical infrastructures and affordances have been ways of keeping or pushing women out of the workplace. Requiring a given number of gendered bathrooms may have been understood at one time as an equity response to this issue. It’s just one whose failings are now much more widely visible.

          2. hbc*

            They’re not forbidden by anyone, but a lot of the rules around them can make them nearly impossible to implement if they weren’t in the original building design. Our European facility has stalls that are more like small toilet rooms (i.e.: floor to ceiling doors) and a common sink area right outside, fitting at least as many bodies as you would in a standard communal gendered bathroom. However, in my state, you have to have a sink in the same space as the toilet for single occupancy. I’d say you need roughly 3x the space for the same unisex capacity in the US office, and that’s before considering people who might go into the bathroom and not need to take up a toilet while washing their hands or fixing their hair.

        1. quill*

          Yeah, if it’s all stalls, there’s basically no practical difference if a bathroom is divided by gender. There are historical reasons that businesses were required to have a separate women’s bathroom, but now that we’ve come around to the idea that there are women existing in public everywhere, it’s time to move on to a model of everyone gets some walls, nobody risks glimpsing anyone else’s junk, the men’s and women’s bathroom lines even out and nobody bothers anyone else about why they’re in there.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          And showers with only a shower curtain. If they were little shower rooms with a locking door, that would be fine (and I way perfer that) but shower curtains tend to billow, and a lot of people would be uncomfortable with it.

      2. Catherine*

        LW here – unfortunately not, they are the “communal” type with metal-partitioned stalls instead of completely separate enclosed bathrooms. The only bathrooms that we could make non-gendered (and already have about 2 years ago!) do not have shower facilities, only toilets and sinks.

    1. Baby Yoda*

      Agree and think any sign regarding this should mention anyone with family needs may use the necessary room.

    2. Generic Name*

      I agree. When my son was small, I always used the non-gendered/”family” bathrooms/changing areas. As a woman, I would not feel comfortable with all locker rooms/bathrooms being non-gendered, but I do feel comfortable with anyone who identifies as a woman or nonbinary using the same locker room/bathroom as me (just to add an anecdotal data point for the OP) .

      1. Jade*

        I want to preface what I’m about to say by saying a) I am non-binary and b) I’m not here to argue, but to challenge your perspective on gender. While I understand you frame this as anecdotal for OP, I implore you to challenge your perspective on this sentence: “As a woman, I would not feel comfortable with all locker rooms/bathrooms being non-gendered, but I do feel comfortable with anyone who identifies as a woman or nonbinary using the same locker room/bathroom as me.”. Not all non-binary people are AFAB (assigned female at birth) and to imply you are only comfortable with AFAB people using the same restroom as you writes off a lot of non-binary people. Would you be comfortable with an AMAB non-binary person using the same locker room as you? If the answer is no, I don’t think you’re comfortable with non-binary people sharing these spaces with you. Just some food for thought.

        1. Bye Academia*

          I can’t speak for Generic Name, but I am wondering what about her statement made you think she would be uncomfortable with someone who is AMAB but identifies as female or non-binary?

          I’m asking as a genuine question. I am also a cisgender woman, and also feel more comfortable in a gendered space due to the high levels of gendered violence against women. But to me, that just means no cisgender men. I would be totally fine with anyone AFAB (cis, non-binary, or even trans if they’re not comfortable in the men’s room for any reason), or anyone AMAB who was trans, non-binary, or questioning. Is “I do feel comfortable with anyone who identifies as a woman or nonbinary using the same locker room/bathroom as me” not inclusive of that? Because that is the kind of caveat I would add in conversation too, and I want to make sure I’m clear with my language.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            Yes – I have no problem at all sharing washroom/shower space with trans/non-binary people. I’ve been to co-ed naked spas and beaches without any discomfort or self-consciousness. I would be reluctant to share an unmonitored, enclosed space with random cis men where we’re naked and it’s not easy to get help, escape, or find witnesses if assaulted. It sets off the same fear response as the idea of walking through an unlit city park late at night.

        2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I’m not the person you’re responding to, and I’m AFAB, generally use womens facilities since that’s what’s on offer, but have felt uncomfortable in woman-only-gendered spaces my entire life so I’m definitely in a place of more comfort with sharing a locker room/bathroom/whatever with no gender distinctions, so I’m coming at this a bit differently than the person you’re responding to is.

          However, it’s also possible for a person who would prefer to have a womens-only locker room to realize that, under the current system, there is often no good place for a non-binary person to change or use the restroom, and decide that it’s up to her to become comfortable with having non-binary people, regardless of their assignment at birth or current presentation, in the “womens” space because of the lack of more inclusive options. Probably many women would also prefer elementary school boys not be in the “womens” restroom and similarly tolerate it because they realize the lack of better options for those families. Sometimes we welcome people because we realize that’s the right thing to do even if we’d prefer a better overall situation, and declaring that you’re comfortable with it and doing your best to react as if you are even if you’re not 100% on it inside your head can be part of trying to get along in our inperfectly-plumbed world.

          I realize that there is a major problem with some people assuming that all non-binary people are AFAB and “woman-lite” or “woman-adjacent” rather than recognizing that it’s a broad label for a pretty diverse group of people and that’s what you’re trying to push back on here, though.

          1. Neither Nor Both*

            This is an interesting discussion… I’m non-binary and present androgynously, and I often feel more comfortable in men’s spaces because cis women tend to be much more aggressive about policing the bodies of anyone who could be perceived as masculine-of-center, regardless of their actual gender identity. IME, men don’t really pay attention to anyone else when using the bathroom.

            I would most likely not feel comfortable regularly choosing the “women or non-binary” option if there was also a “men” option. There are plenty of non-binary people who present in ways other than androgynously or the “opposite” of their AGAB, and that doesn’t necessarily have bearing on the spaces they feel comfortable in. An AFAB non-binary person who “passes” as a man might not feel comfortable in a “women and non-binary” space, and an AMAB non-binary person with a masculine-of-center presentation might not feel comfortable in a “men’s” space.

            Gender is very complex, and trying to draw the line definitively anywhere outside of individual self-identification is going to leave out some folks.

            1. No Longer Looking*

              I feel that generally you are correct that “men don’t really pay attention” being generally true. However, anecdotally – this weekend I was at a sci-fi-themed event in a hotel that had with the permission of the venue used taped signage to convert some of the bathrooms to non-gendered spaces. I happened to be near them waiting for a friend when two 2o-ish male-presenting people walked up to one of the signs, threw it on the floor and started complaining about it.

              I went over and got into a verbal altercation with them about their actions, telling them not to tear down things that didn’t belong to them. They said “What if a woman was in there?” and I replied “Then you would go in and BE RESPECTFUL! Why is that hard?” They then said “What if they were naked?” to which I replied “I don’t know what YOU do in a bathroom, but there are stalls for a reason, and if you have a problem with that, there is a bathroom in your hotel room.” And I replaced the sign and walked away.

              We have a lot of growing to do as a society, I’m afraid, though I am happy to report that this is the first time I’ve seen an issue with the non-gendered bathrooms at this convention in five years.

        3. Generic Name*

          “Would you be comfortable with an AMAB non-binary person using the same locker room as you?”

          I absolutely would be, and that’s why I phrased things the way I did.

        4. Snarkaeologist*

          As a nonbianary person who uses female changing rooms, I would agree with the statement that I’m comfortable with anyone who identifies as a woman or nonbinary using the women’s rooms. It has nothing to do with assuming they’re all AFAB and little to do with body parts. It’s more about intent.

          There’s a big difference between a person using a changing room that they feel most comfortable with and the defaulting to the comfort of cis men that can come from just having one single changing area.

          1. Boof*

            Yes; someone who is either trans or nonbinary in the “ladies” room will give a whole different vibe than, say, a group of bros :p

    3. Gnome*

      I was thinking something similar. I also appreciated the comments about medical or family situations that arise. It might be, in the long run, best to think about redesigning the existing bathroom spaces. Think along the lines of full doors instead of American-style stalls with massive gaps and having one bathroom be an everybody one and the other being the “family” one with enough space for a wheelchair and a helper in each stall. Of course, this assumes no local ordinance or law that says you can’t.

    4. miro*

      I agree that non-gendered bathrooms are the way to go, though I think it’s worth pointing out that non-gendered bathrooms =/= single-stall bathrooms. The mentions of disability, large groups, and more space make me think that’s what you have in mind. As an example of the distinction, I’m not non-binary but I am a wheelchair user and so was permitted to use the single-person, non-gendered locker room at my university since it was the only one with accessibility bars and a shower seat. However, they later opened up another all-gender locker room that was not specifically accessible (or single-person)–like the men’s and women’s locker rooms, it had a standing shower area and an open area to change, it’s just that it wasn’t designated for a particular gender.

    5. Kesnit*

      As I’m reading the OP, the issue isn’t just bathrooms; it’s also shower facilities. Having a single-person, unisex bathroom (i.e. toilet and sink) is one thing. It is another to have an entire shower facility, including changing areas.

      1. Sloanicota*

        In this case I agree and if I were managing such a resort I think I’d start budgeting now to pay whatever it cost to create some private stalls. This is the way of the future.

        1. quill*

          In some cases the shower attached to a pool or hot tub, is intended to just rinse you, and your suit. So if that’s the case, possibly the signage could be amended to remind people to keep the swimsuit on. If people are taking post workout showers that’s different and stalls are probably better.

          The best communal shower setup I’ve ever been to was at a convent. Each shower stall had a curtained alcove in front of it with a sturdy bench to deposit your clothes / post shower toiletries on, then another curtain before you hit the water. Much better than fighting over one awkward triangular shelf per four showers at my college dorm.

      2. Blue Glass*

        I agree. And another thing is that having a separate toilet/sink/shower/changing area, which the OP says is not in the cards, that would certainly be used by all guests, because who doesn’t want a private shower/changing area/toilet/sink??

        And my understanding is that it really couldn’t be reserved for particular guests because it would be like the handicapped toilet. Handicapped toilets are not reserved solely for the handicapped. The law requires them to be available, not reserved. They also sometimes stick a diaper changing station in Handicapped.

    6. anonymous73*

      Yes. I’m not sure if expense is the issue or that there isn’t enough space, but if it’s only a space issue, they could make each of the gendered facilities a bit smaller to accommodate for a non-gendered one. The space would allow service to the same amount of people, but in 3 locations instead of 2.

    7. n.m.*

      I do wonder about possibly making both bathrooms “family” restrooms. I understand that in some places regulations prevent this and OP may already have looked into it.

    8. Sloanicota*

      It’s interesting, I have also heard that asking gender-fluid people to use a gender-neutral bathroom can be considered offensive, because they should be able to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender on that day rather than a third option; life really is a tapestry.

      1. Lavender*

        This problem could be solved by letting people use whichever bathroom makes them feel most comfortable. Even if there’s a gender-neutral option, I don’t like the idea of making all gender-non-conforming people use it. For some nonbinary people it would be gender-affirming to have an option that’s not specifically “for men” or “for women”; for others it would feel alienating. It’s best to have all the options available and let people work out for themselves which one to use.

        The other option would be to make all the restrooms gender-neutral.

    9. Momma Bear*

      I like the thought process of who would benefit from a unisex bathroom, so while it was initiated by support for Pat, it is fueled as well as support for others. Make it wheelchair accessible. Put a tiny potty in it for toddlers. Hand rails. A changing table. Etc. What are all the amenities someone, anyone, might like in that space? Older folks might appreciate not having to navigate a row of people for the sinks or some extra space if they have medical needs. Parents or shy people might appreciate a shower/toilet/sink combo without other people.

      I went to a restaurant once with a set up I appreciated – a row of single stall unisex toilets with a full door (think closets) and a row of sinks out in the open. There was NO line for the bathroom because there was no limit to who could go in. You had your privacy for whatever you needed to do, and if all you wanted to do was wash your hands, you didn’t need to go into a restroom to do so. The locks turned green/red so you didn’t have to guess if it was occupied.

      I also agree that making the policy official and known will be better in the long run – don’t make the front desk staff defend the company in the moment and don’t make other guests guess.

      Regardless of what is decided, I think inclusion is always the best route. There are way more benefits to the community to be inclusive than to be exclusive.

  3. Not a Spawn of Satan*

    Allison, thank you so much for noting their pronoun preference; I really appreciate it.

      1. 4eyedlibrarian*

        Thanks for saying this Ariel! We don’t have preferred pronouns, a pronoun preference, or chosen pronouns. It’s just our pronoun.

      2. randomly generated*

        You’re right that the word “preference” when it comes to pronouns is falling out of style since it makes using them sound optional / not important.

        Nuanced personal opinion ahead! For me, pronouns are a preference. I feel lukewarm about my choice of they/them at best, and have fluctuating feelings about he/she/etc depending on context. I also recognize that I can’t force others refer to me in any particular way. Of course, if it’s clear people are trying to be rude, I’ll walk away or set boundaries where I can.

  4. bee*

    You only have two bathrooms and can’t build another— would you be able to re-label the existing facilities to make them both gender neutral but maybe cater to different populations? Like a urinals/no urinals bathroom or a “nudity okay”/“please change in a stall” locker room?

    1. Crimson*

      How would nudity/ no nudity even work? The point of a locker room is to be able to change.

      Many, many people will need some type of gender segregation to feel comfortable. There are very real reasons for it and it’s not a bad thing. A more logical relabel would be “women and non-binary people” and “men and nonbinary people.”

      1. Elsa*

        I like that solution. I was thinking of the disrobing situation as well. A curtain in front of the shower stall doesn’t cut it unless there’s a private disrobing area in front of it that’s also curtained. (Which is sometimes the case.)

        Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of locker rooms where everyone is supposed to be okay with stripping down to the altogether in front of each other, regardless of gender.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Me either, and I don’t care a fig if someone in the room is trans or NB. I’m just not a big fan of being nakey in front of people I don’t know.

          1. louvella*

            Yeah, I do not understand the expectation that I should be comfortable being naked in front of strangers, regardless of their gender. I’ve never been naked in an open locker room in my life and am not ever planning on it.

            1. quill*

              Didn’t everyone do the “change under the largest beach towel you can find” routine in high school gym? (I guess not everyone had swimming as part of gym, anything else you can at least keep your undergarments on.)

              1. Ally McBeal*

                There are a lot of reasons why tweens/teens are stinky, and one of them (from my personal experience) is “I refuse to shower or change in front of my classmates after gym class.” Ugh. It’s been decades since I had to deal with that and I feel like I’ll always carry the trauma (little-T) with me.

                1. quill*

                  Yeah, the way gym is set up for students is pretty bad overall. I was lucky in that you could sign up for “summer gym” where you could simply have gym class and nothing else during the summerschool time frame, and therefore go home to shower, etc.

                2. Momma Bear*

                  The showers at our school went unused from 6th -12th grades. Why anyone thought that open showers would be used, ever, is beyond me. (We did not have a pool.)

                3. Elitist Semicolon*

                  We weren’t allowed to shower after gym in my school – or, at least, the women in the “regular” gym classes weren’t. I had a friend who was in the adaptive class who told me, with horror, that they were not only required to shower, but also monitored by the teacher to make sure they did. The teacher didn’t watch – she stood at the door to make sure people went in and came out damp – but that’s still horrifying to me.

                4. quill*

                  @MommaBear: I assume that at some point they had curtains. (and were still disgusting, etc.) The curtains were damaged, inevitably, and never replaced. Which is the way of most pieces of a public school.

              2. RagingADHD*

                Many of us could do a lot of things in high school that we aren’t agile enough to do now. And some never could.

                1. quill*

                  This is true. And based on my own high school experience there were definitely people who resisted learning the ettiquette of keeping your eyes on your own clothes or locker and not streaking through the locker room.

              3. Super Admin*

                Oh yes. Everyone trying to claim the corner to change behind their towels, while there was always that one girl who merrily stripped in the middle of the changing area.

                1. Some of my old classmates read this site*

                  Here’s a laugh for you. When I was in junior high school, there was a major electrical fire that gutted the girls locker room. For three semesters, we used the auditorium stage as our locker room. Even those of us who chose to change behind the piano or the risers made jokes about stripping on stage!

              4. doreen*

                The only reason I took swimming in high school (40 years ago) was because the pool locker room had individual showers each with its own dressing room. It was bad enough changing in the common area of the regular locker room – no way would I have been naked in an open locker room.

              1. louvella*

                No, but they’re suggesting that cis women shouldn’t have to be naked in front of people with penises, basically, as if the penises are the main concern.

          2. Lizziana*

            Yup. People keep mentioning how 14 year old girls wouldn’t be comfortable changing with AMAB non-binary people or trans women, and I just remember being 14 in the 1990s, and how uncomfortable I was with all the naked women my mom’s age at the gym. If my friends and I are any indication, there is just a general discomfort with nakedness.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Absolutely. I want to strip in front of other women exactly as much as I want to strip in front of men. Or NB people.

        3. NotARacoonKeeper*

          A counterpoint from a lifelong competitive swimmer/heavy pool user: it was transformative for me in my teens and early twenties to notice other women walking around naked, and their comfort with their bodies and body hair. In the hairlessness of the ’00s, it was a relief to know that not all beautiful woman had hairless bikini areas, and to learn that you could have an “imperfect” body and not need to hide it.

          This in no way is meant to detract from the fact that we need gender-neutral spaces in all facilities where people change their clothes (in all facilities, actually), but just mourning the spaces where *I* learned that all bodies are good bodies.

      2. A CAD Monkey*

        the problem with “women and non-binary people” labeling is that is typically used by T*E*R*F*s to exclude NB AMAB because they see NB AFAB people as women lite and AMABs as men

        1. TyphoidMary*

          In this case the commenter is suggesting the other room be labeled “Men and Nonbinary People.” (As I nonbinary person my hackles go up at “women and NB,” too, but then I saw the rest of the comment)

          1. Liz T*

            True, I’m just not sure what that would be communicating. It would be really unclear to me if the proprietors would be expecting non-binary people to separate based on how they were assigned at birth, or what.

            1. RagingADHD*

              It seems clear to me that it allows NB people to choose as Pat does, one or the other.

          2. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

            I like the way our bathrooms are named at work: All Gender Bathroom. Granted, all 3 are single occupational, but we make no distinction between genders, and it’s crystal clear that if you have issues with a person’s gender, then you will not be working there long if you can’t get over it enough to work with everyone respectfully.

            That, and everyone will come down on you with both feet for harassing people who are not cis. It just plain unacceptable there.

            1. Empress Matilda*

              That, and everyone will come down on you with both feet for harassing people who are not cis. It just plain unacceptable there.

              This is really important! I started to write a reply, but I think it should be a standalone comment. Posting at the bottom of the thread as well.

            2. Fanny Price*

              Our bathrooms at work (single occupancy) have a robot on one and an alien on the other. Anyone can use either.

      3. bee*

        There are often people who change in the open area near the lockers, and others who take their clothes into a bathroom or shower stall and change in there— I’m imagining separating by whether it’s okay to be naked specifically in open/common areas of a large locker room.

        As far as your second paragraph, I think that people are certainly *used* to separate spaces by binary gender, but I’m not convinced that they’re a genuine need. I’ve used plenty of gender neutral restrooms and felt perfectly comfortable, and I think it’s much less of a Big Deal to actually experience vs. the bogeyman that people imagine them to be.

        1. JumpAround*

          Gender neutral restrooms, for sure all day, but I understand the concern on exclusively gender neutral changing rooms. Someone could have been the victim of a sexual assault and not be comfortable with disrobing near a member of another gender. Some religions preclude people from having portions of their body visible to people of a different gender than their own.

          1. Phoenix*

            There are plenty of non-gender-related and non-trauma-related reasons why people might prefer or need private changing facilities. It’s not necessary to retain binary gendered changing facilities if the gender neutral facilities can also offer a set of private facilities within them.

            1. JumpAround*

              Absolutely! And if everything can be 100% private then I’m definitely in agreement. I was thinking more of at least partially communal facilities where some people might be comfortable being in a certain state of undress in communal areas. It’s not uncommon for people to feel ok changing or in their underwear outside of private changing areas in a gym locker room.

          2. Charlotte Lucas*

            Tbh, I have been in locker rooms where no nudity is acceptable & they just have changing rooms similar to clothing stores. Personally, I prefer this. Because I have no desire to be around naked strangers.

          3. bee*

            That’s why I proposed nudity/no nudity changing rooms— I’m in the “i don’t particularly want to see anybody naked” camp, and changing in a stall next to people of any gender seems like a fine solution to me.

          4. Wildcat*

            Yes, it’s important to understand that going full gender neutral will itself push out another group of people (and a group that has often been denied access itself).

            I’m highly in favor of having a gender neutral family changing area for everyone and then allowing other private spaces.

            Remember that just having private shower/changing areas alone isn’t going to solve the issue, if, for instance you don’t give a woman a space to dry her hair in a women only area, it’s not good enough.

            1. Dawbs*

              Bear with me, but, why not?

              Granted, I’m not one to use a blow dryer, but where i take my kid for swim lessons, there are individual change rooms and one gigantic counter where everyone, all genders, dries hair and gets ready. Why wouldn’t that work?

              1. Anon4This*

                I think they are referring to the fact that Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women aren’t allowed to let any man who isn’t their husband see their hair, (or any exposed skin in some cases) so someone who presents male being in the common area would be a problem for them.

                1. Dawbs*

                  Ok.
                  So with that i can picture the (not expensive to install) large counter with a small portion at each end curtained off. Our even more curtains that can be used or pushed back.

                  Making more if it open to all would SO help my family and people like us. The public *kinda* understands needing to help someone with a disability in the bathroom but don’t always realize that the different gendered caregiver (me for my gramps, my husband for my MIL. Husband and my dad with my kud and my ) needs to help with grooming-shaving and doing hair and washing hands.

                  If we had only gendered change areas, my kid couldn’t have swimming lessons and not having them kept my gramps from traveling with me and so keeps my MIL unable to travel without me.
                  It seems like a lot of things that are non-binary and trans friendly are very much “curb cut effect” for disabled folks and tgeir families

              2. A Feast of Fools*

                Some religions do not permit women to let any other man see her hair other than her husband (and maybe her boy children?). So that’s one reason why one gigantic counter wouldn’t work if hair needed to be dried or re-styled.

              3. JumpAround*

                Because it is against some religions to let a member of another gender see your hair. So if the space is gender neutral and the area where someone can dry their hair is in an open space like you’ve described, those people would not be able to use it.

              4. DataSci*

                The only thing I can think of is that it’s not about drying hair per se, but about being seen by members of other genders while their hair is uncovered.

              1. Siege*

                Because there’s no exception in some religions for unrelated men seeing your hair being okay if you’re fully dressed.

                1. ThatGirl*

                  Yeah, I saw that reply after I posted my question. And it’s a fair point. But I do like Dawbs’ proposed solution.

          5. Bagpuss*

            I think it depends a lot on how they are set up – if you have a cubicle with a locking door which is large enough to shower and change, then you don’t need to be in any shared area except when fully clothes.
            There would still be an issue for, for example, some Muslim and Jewish women if the hairdryers were in the shared area , and possibly for Sikh men, too (I am not sure what the rules are around not wearing a turban and whether they are different based on the gender of who can see you)

  5. Still Queer, Still Here*

    Is it possible to adapt any existing restroom to be gender neutral? I work at a facility that has 3 singleton restrooms at various areas in the building. At 1 point, they were labeled by gender, but because they don’t occur in pairs, it was really easy to transition them into all-gender restrooms. We serve an older population, so when we did it, we included a flyer on the door with a definition of all-gender restrooms and why we decided to do it. There are still a pair of gendered restrooms on each floor, and they tend to get more traffic than the others. Worked as a compromise and helps make certain members of the community feel welcome!

  6. Bagpuss*

    Is it possible to make the existing facilities unisex?

    I know of several theatres which have done this for the toilets. They are still the same facilities they always were, but the signage has changed – in one case it just says what the facilities are (e.g. 3 cubicles / 1 cubicle and 2 urinals) and in others they are labelled with symbols and state that they are open to all genders.

    If that isn’t an option (or even if it is) I would suggest signage as suggested that explicitly states that guests are free to use the bathroom which most closely matches their gender identity.

    What arrangements do you have for children and people with disabilities who may need to have a a carer with them?

    1. JustaTech*

      There’s a brewery in my city that has a single (huge) gender-neutral bathroom. Actually it’s really a hallway with individual stalls that are basically little rooms, and then a single shared round sink (like I’ve seen in some stadiums).
      It feels very natural and easy, and because the stall walls go all the way to the floor there’s no “escape children” roaming around the floor. (This is how bathroom stalls are in Europe, and frankly it’s much nicer than the way bathrooms are in the US.)

      1. Cascadia*

        We might be thinking of the same brewery! I love that place. One side of the stalls are “rooms with urinals” and the other side is “rooms with toilets”. You can pick whichever situation you need at the time! I wish all bathrooms would be designed this way in the future.

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      Okay, it’s transphobic, that’s fine. Still, a paying female guest who doesn’t want to share a toilet / changing area with a large, male-looking stranger is actually allowed to object to this, pejoratives be damned.

      My vote would be to make the current men’s rest rooms specifically gender-neutral. Obviously this presumes there are stalls and privacy as one would expect, but would likely also include a urinal, which might be preferred for various reasons.

      Is there a parents / babies changing area anywhere? That would make a very useful additional bathroom / changing space for anyone who wants to use it, because one would not expect it to be gender-specific.

      1. bamcheeks*

        They’re allowed to object, the facility is allowed to make it clear that’s not an objection they wish to accommodate.

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        But this means that women get a gender specific room and men do not, correct?
        Large male-looking people may not don’t want to use a bathroom with a small, female looking person who identifies as male.
        This solution is asking trans people who identify as male to identify as non-binary, not male. But if they appear female, they have to use the non-binary anyway?
        So who decides if they appear male enough?
        This just reframes the issue, it doesn’t solve the problem.

    2. ElizabethJane*

      Except what if Pat was assigned female at birth and used to use she/her pronouns. I have a very close friend who has XY chromosomes, has a vagina, uses she/her pronouns, and takes testosterone because she prefers to look traditionally male.

      Are you genuinely suggesting that this person does not get to use the women’s restroom? Because even the transphobic conservative republicans would say that she does (use the bathroom that matches your genitals). And if this is what you are suggesting who gets to decide who uses what bathroom? What about androgynous people? They’re just SOL?

      It’s straight up transphobic. This is a fear (phobia) of people who don’t fit into binary categories.

    3. Sharon*

      And many white people used to feel uncomfortable sharing a bathroom or even a restaurant with black people – most of them got over it, I hope. I think we need to move past the idea that we need to divide people into arbitrary groups based on visible biological features and instead respond based on whether they are DOING anything that makes other people uncomfortable, not simply EXISTING. (This can also be a direction for the front desk staff to take in their response – ask the complainer what the person was DOING that made them feel uncomfortable – if it wasn’t anything different than what others using the facility were doing, don’t worry about it.)

      1. Still Queer, Still Here*

        ^^ THIS. If you are uncomfortable co-existing with someone’s identity, whether it’s race, gender, religion, disability, etc… YOU are the one who has to deal with that, not the person who is simply existing. Figure out what your discomfort is and deal with it yourself.

      2. Elsa*

        I have never in my entire life met a white person who was uncomfortable sharing a restaurant or bathroom with black people. Or even a hot tub. And I have met white people who were openly racist.

        And one of them was in the hot tub. Happy as a clam.

    4. Pool Lounger*

      I just don’t get this. I go to a Buddhist temple. The bathroom has multiple stalls and is unisex. People of different gender identities are all in the bathroom together. It’s fine. We go in, shut the stall doirs, pee/change/whatever, wash up, and get out. No one cares what gender the person in the next stall identifies as. And it’s great. No more super long women-only bathroom lines for me! I wish all bathrooms were like this.

      1. Nerd Alert*

        Similar to many bathrooms in Spain—I’ve been to many restaurants that present stalls to everyone and a communal sink area. No. Big. Deal. I wish Americans took a cue from many European countries that cater to humans and not genders when it comes to toilets and changing rooms.

    5. ElizabethJane*

      This is literally a fear (phobia) of people who do not neatly fit into binary categories. That’s actually the definition of transphobia.

      And we do not know if Pat was ever male. Pat may have a vagina. Or are you suggesting that now transphobic people get to dictate who looks girly enough to use the bathroom? What about women who are just ugly?

    6. louvella*

      As a tween girl I was not comfortable being fully nude in front of anyone. Now as an adult, I still wouldn’t change in front of strangers. But that’s my own thing to deal with.

    7. Jennifer Strange*

      They’re welcome to change in the toilet stall or shower stall then, both of which offer full privacy. Some people are uncomfortable about changing in front of anyone, even someone of the same (cis) gender. That doesn’t mean they can ask everyone to leave while they change.

    8. TyphoidMary*

      Just checking, should we also exlude cis women who have had masectomies for other reasons?

      Should we exclude women who present as butch?

      Should we exclude women with larger, broader builds? Women with PCOS and facial hair?

      I’m just worried about all these delicate folks seeing a “male looking stranger”

    9. Verthandi*

      So….what bathroom should Pat use? The answer to that is up to Pat. They should use whatever bathroom they feel comfortable using.

      When I was a child, we went on numerous road trips. Sometimes rest areas had one of the restrooms closed. What to do? Use the other one, of course! No one cared!

      The configuration of someone’s genitalia is no one’s business.

  7. I edit everything*

    For the “we have to investigate any complaints” policy, could it be changed so that a staff member only has to investigate if the person being complained about is being disruptive? If a guest comes up and says, “Hey, there’s a guy in the women’s locker room,” perhaps a good staff response would be, “We invite our guests/residents to use the facility that most closely aligns with their gender identity. If another guest is actively bothering you, of course we will investigate, but if they’re simply using the facility, then our policy allows that.”

    So if Pat is just blow drying their hair, no investigation necessary. If Bruiser is snapping their towel at people or leering, then staff intervention is warranted.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I generally agree with this, though I would probably ask a question or two first, then state the policy.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        This. If you start with “We won’t address this unless they’re causing problems,” they’ll immediately come up with a problem. If you start with “What was this person doing?” you’re more likely to get an honest answer (like “He was in the women’s bathroom, what else do you need?”)

        1. I edit everything*

          Yes, a “Could you describe their behavior, please?” would be good, making it clear the policy is about problematic behavior, not existence.

          1. PinkCandyfloss*

            This puts the onus on the staff person to decide or not decide to investigate, which is too much of a liability issue quite frankly: “what are they doing” is subjective. This is not the best response, to challenge a reporting guest, and to give staff an opt-out of doing due diligence. I do not think the resort’s legal team would ever allow this to be formally documented part of the process of handling reports.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              But surely if you want to report someone who is behaving inappropriately, you would have to describe their inappropriate behavior, whether they were sitting at the pool or standing in line at the water fountain or changing in the locker room.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              But if you’re going to complain about someone, you have to complain about their behavior, whether they’re sitting by the pool, standing in line at the water fountain, or changing in the locker room. If someone is simply being non-binary in a non-binary restroom/locker room, just saying “they don’t belong there” isn’t an actionable complaint.

              (Alison, sorry if this is submitted twice – I got an error message the first time)

    2. Joelle*

      As a nonbinary person who focuses on creating and implementing inclusive policies and practices in the volunteer organizations I am associate with, I support this policy suggestion.

    3. bamcheeks*

      Yes, I was slightly confused about what the “check” would be looking for– you can’t have a check which is, “Oh, it’s just Pat” “wait, it’s someone I perceive as male who is Not Pat, they must be up to No Good!” You need a policy which specifies what behaviour isn’t allowed in your changing rooms from anyone regardless of their gender.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      That’s exactly how our HR decided it – if there’s actual harassment or disruption going on they’ll investigate regardless of gender/gender undefined/not applicable.

      ‘That person at the sink looks like a bloke!’ isn’t harassment.

      1. AnotherSarah*

        this makes so much sense, and also allows for the idea that someone could be acting creepy or harassing in the “right” restroom!

    5. Hotdog not dog*

      This makes a lot of sense. LW mentioned that the facilities allow for individual privacy, so as long as people are using them as intended, why does it matter who’s in the next stall?

    6. Kyrielle*

      This sounds perfect, yes. I’m a cis woman, and I don’t care about the plumbing of the person in the next stall, or about the gender they identify as, in regards to my safety and comfort.

      If they’re trying to peer under a partition/door to see me when I’m supposed to be in a private space, that I care about. Regardless of any of the above.

    7. WindmillArms*

      Exactly what I was coming down to say! I think scripts for the desk staff should focus on *finding out what the complainant actually saw.* I think if you encourage your desk staff to focus on *behaviour* rather than *appearance*, it becomes much more clear when intervention is required.

      “Well he wasn’t doing anything really, he was just in the wrong bathroom.” = no investigation
      “He was peering under the stalls and trying top open closed shower stall doors. ” = investigate

    8. Catherine*

      LW here – this is perfect and an aspect I hadn’t thought of. I really appreciate you calling out the difference between “actively bothering” and “existing”. Honestly looking at it from that perspective makes what I had thought was a complex problem into a relatively simple one.

    9. Catherine*

      LW here – this is a perfect and simple solution. In hindsight, this feels a bit like not seeing the forest for the trees, but my thanks to everyone and the collective insight of this forum in helping make it clear.

    10. RagingADHD*

      If you create a policy of doing nothing unless someone can point to a specific offense or disruption, you need to make sure your definition of “disruptive” is realistic to the kind of things creeps do to flaunt their privilege and maintain plausible deniability.

      I have been in a volunteer situation where a known cis-het man with no mobility/health or social-cue issues took to using the women’s restroom, supposedly for “convenience” even though the restrooms were literally side by side. He stood a full head taller than the stall partitions, and didn’t bother sitting down to pee. Made full eye contact while doing so.

      Like, from what I understand it’s considered gross and a major etiquette breach for men to make eye contact with other men while peeing in a urinal, is it not? He was deliberately being invasive.

      None of the women were willing to use the restroom while he was in there, and he would walk in and get started regardless of who else was in there. It was disgusting and skin-crawling, and we couldn’t do anything about it because TPTB weren’t willing to stick up for us. According to them, he “wasn’t doing anything.” And then the women were put in the humiliating position of sounding like children saying “but he was LOOKING at me!”

      We had to hold it or go to a different floor to get any privacy. Fortunately it was a short-term project, because we wouldn’t have put up with it for long.

      Don’t be those people.

      1. ShinyPenny*

        This is an important aspect– creepers specialize in knowing how to maintain plausible deniability. A good plan really needs to include accurate language, that describes the harder to define problem behavior.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Yes. Signage isn’t going to keep the real creeps from creeping or the real harassers from harassing (who just statistically are far more likely to be cis het because numbers and privilege). But you also don’t want to create a chilling effect on people who are trying to report them because they can’t come up with magic words to describe the creepy thing in just the right way.

      2. SenseOrSensibility*

        Yeah, at the risk of sounding like a t-word, cis-het men will take advantage of policies like this in order to be creepy. It doesn’t make me transphobic to say that. And I’m not saying non-binary people can’t use whatever restroom they feel comfortable using, because they should be able to do that. Unfortunately, creepy men will take advantage of this, and people should be able to talk about the possibility without being labeled transphobic.

        Also, I don’t think it’s necessarily transphobic if a woman comes out of a stall and gets scared because she sees what she perceives to be a man. Men commit so much violence against women. Again, it doesn’t mean trans and non-binary people shouldn’t be allowed to use the restroom they’re comfortable using, but we need to be honest at the fact that some women will not feel safe due to trauma.

    11. A*

      Agreed. My preferred ‘script’ would be along the lines of stating that they support and recognize the difference between gender and biological sex – and since there’s literally no way to ‘see’ someone’s gender there is no need for them to get involved unless someone is being disruptive.

    12. Cremedelagremlin*

      I had this thought too, and then I thought about how widely varying a person’s definition of “leering” can be (as applied to whoever they *don’t* want in that changeroom).

      “They were watching my daughter change!” Ok, but WERE they? Or were they just…there? And how is a front desk staffer supposed to be able to parse out what was really happening without involving the person who was supposedly leering (which I assume you’d really want to avoid if this is simply a non-binary or trans person going about their business)?

  8. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Not exactly the same but we did have a series of complaints about a non binary member of staff using the bathrooms – we’ve only one non gendered one and that’s the disabled loo and they don’t feel comfortable using it because they’re not disabled (which given we only have one in the whole building and I’m disabled myself I do kinda appreciate).

    What HR did, upon getting feedback from that person’s boss (me) and the person themselves (let’s call them Sid) was have a script basically saying that the company does allow people to use the bathrooms of whatever gender (or lack there of) they identify as or the closest to what they identify as – and that they are not going to investigate what someone has in their underpants or what they ‘look like’ as the qualification.

    This did become necessary as one manager in another department basically wanted people to prove what they had in their pants so that people with dicks were banned from using the womens loos. It got pretty ugly on the internal forums for a bit.

    But it’s all ok now. HR clarified that if harassment or worse is going on in the bathrooms then absolutely complain regardless of gender and they’ll investigate- but how someone looks isn’t relevant.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      (Btw we do have showers at work. We’re an engineering firm and quite often people need to wash after being on site)

    2. londonedit*

      That’s the thing, isn’t it – if *anyone* is harassing *anyone* at work or at the gym or wherever, then that’s what you investigate. Gender doesn’t come into it (if someone particularly wants to hide out in the loos in order to sexually harass people then they’re going to do that whether the sign on the door says ‘men’ or ‘women’ or ‘unisex’).

  9. Lana*

    So will there be any option for women or female children that are not comfortable changing or showering with male-bodied people (Assigned male at birth)? I could see a lot of grandparents and parents being uncomfortable with that, and you should let them know in advance that that is the policy, so they can cancel their reservations if necessary.

    I know that the line of thinking often goes that anyone uncomfortable getting naked (changing room / shower area) is transphobic and hateful, but there are lots of women who have endured traumas and carry those traumas with them. They will often just opt out of using the changing area and showers, but that doesn’t seem equitable. And honestly, my 14 year old daughter would not be comfortable undressing in front of a non-binary male, even though she understands that that person does not identify as male, per se.

    1. ElizabethJane*

      Except we don’t know if Pat actually has male genitals. So what if the issue is that Pat has a vagina but just happens to look more masculine. Are you honestly suggesting that these hypothetical people get to say “Hey Pat, I know you have a vagina but you kind of look like a dude so I’d prefer that you use the other bathroom”. And what about the grandpas with their 7 year old grandsons who then say “Hey Pat, I know you look like a dude but you have a vagina so I really need you to use the other bathroom”.

      1. Lana*

        No, I am talking about situations where the non-binary individual who wants to use the women’s shower and changing area was assigned male at birth and still has male genitalia. I’m not talking about washrooms.
        Whether you think it is rational or not, many people will have an issue with a female child in an enclosed space with a naked male stranger, and this will be hell for the front desk staff to try to defend. I feel for them too.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          OP states there are cubicles and curtains so nobody is just strolling around others in the buff.

        2. ElizabethJane*

          Again, how do you know the person has a dick? Per the OP the only public spaces are the sinks. So the only way you know if the person is assigned male at birth is because you’re peeking in the shower? That’s a you problem.

          What if the person was assigned male at birth, still has a dick, but has had several surgeries (implants, etc) to look more traditionally like a woman. Is that OK?

          And “Oh I’m talking about these other situations” is absolutely moving the goalpost. We’re not discussing whatever “what-if” scenario people can come up with to justify their transphobia. We’re discussing the OPs letter.

        3. Mercie*

          Per the LW, the showers and changing areas are separate, not communal. So what is your concern, specifically? That people who are different from you exist in the world?

    2. ThatGirl*

      Whoo, all the terfs are out here today! Are you and UKGreen friends?

      (PS ALL of the areas where someone would be naked are private, per the LW. You don’t have to see anyone’s body in this example.)

      1. Mercie*

        Since these transphobic comments keep harping on “male-bodied” (whatever that means???), I think it might be just one transphobic person spamming the comments.

        1. Gerry Keay*

          Nah, “male bodied” is a really common TERF term to deny trans women and trans feminine people’s experience and identity. Unfortunately, there are a lot of transphobic people out there who weaponize feminist against trans people.

        2. Joelle*

          Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a single person – this is a common phrasing amongst TERFs and other transphobic people, and usually their heads explode when you ask about how to handle intersex people in a locker room situation that only accommodates a binary gender paradigm, as if intersex people aren’t more common than natural redheads (because they are!).

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        It seems like the anti-trans crowd have alerts on for any discussion of trans issues so they can come and do their concern trolling. This happens every time trans issues are discussed here, unfortunately, and it’s rarely names we’re used to seeing.

    3. MGW*

      The LW specifically states that all toilets, showers, and changing stalls are private so it’s just the sink/mirror area. So absolutely if anyone is flashing their genitalia at the sink that’s an issue, but otherwise no one has to see what anyone else has under their clothes. So that’s not at all an issue here, and shouldn’t be taken into account.

      1. This Old House*

        The LW doesn’t actually mention changing stalls. They mention toilet stalls, and showers, and I’m picturing almost every locker room I’ve ever been in, where you may shower in a private stall, and then towel off and put on dry clothes in a more central area, around other people who have typically been of the same gender as you. Some of them even have signs on the doors of the relatively few toilet stalls asking you NOT to change in them to avoid hogging the facilities. It’s not necessarily clear from the letter that “no one has to see what anyone else has under their clothes.”

      2. Yvette*

        OK, so “all toilets, showers, and changing stalls are private so it’s just the sink/mirror area”. How about “all guests must be fully clothed in the common areas” (and fully clothed can = robe, dressing gown). Also, can the curtains in the showers and dressing rooms be replaced with stall doors? I was working in NYC when they passed the “self-identify” in relation to rest-rooms. All the stall doors were retro-fitted with strips of metal to cover the gaps, rendering them truly private. I have to confess I am a very private person and even back in the day when it was just Women’s rooms and Men’s rooms and everyone pretended the whole world was cis, I was never comfortable that the stall doors and curtains did not provide complete edge to edge coverage. I liked those privacy strips.

    4. Wildcat*

      The one thing I’ll note is that I lived in an all female dorm and we had to be extremely careful about announcing male visitors because of certain religious practices (women who wore hijabs, for instance). So you do want to make sure you are clear on the rules for particular spaces and have clear private spaces for anyone.

    5. Moose*

      The showers are separate, curtained, and closed-off, according to the LW. There are private showering and changing spaces. I don’t think this is a situation where other guests would have to shower with others at all.

    6. Zoe*

      Yes: there are no public change areas or group showers in this situation.

      So this hypothetical concern doesn’t even apply, and I think you’d be surprised by what a 14yo is capable of understanding and coping with anyway.

      But …let’s say it was a group situation: what about a 14yo trans or non-binary kid’s experience? They often face angry adults, social derision, and violence–actual violence, not the hypothetical (and ultimately very rare) kind–because they pass as one gender but can’t use those facilities, or aren’t gendered enough for the other facilities. Those kids are far more vulnerable, and face trauma and persecution far more seriously and frequently than pretty much any other group of children. I urge you to consider and care about the safety of those kids too.

    7. Lizzianna*

      For what it’s worth, a trans or non-binary person is at far more risk of harassment and worse using a gendered bathroom than a cis woman. The trans women I know just want a place to be able to pee or change in peace. I am tired of prioritizing some women’s comfort over the ability for trans women to be able to exist in a public space.

      That said, as a mother with a young son, non-gendered bathrooms and family changing areas are wonderful, and I’m fully supportive of increasing those in public spaces. My son is getting old enough that he’s uncomfortable in a women’s restroom or locker room, but not old enough that I’m comfortable sending him into the men’s room by himself.

  10. Lockhart*

    +1 for non gendered bathrooms. As a cis male with a stepdaughter, I used to have to take her into men’s rooms when we were out alone together and it was honestly a little uncomfortable. Everywhere that had a non gendered bathroom was more comfortable because I didn’t feel “weird” about it. This situation comes up for cisgender people probably more often than you will have nonbinary or trans guests (Pat nonwithstanding) and is a pretty good reason you can pitch it to your org to make everyone feel included and rob transphobes of an excuse to make a stink about it.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      You make an excellent point. I know when I was a kid my dad would take me and my sister out but feel that he absolutely could not use the womens bogs (children changing facilities were ONLY in the womens loos when I was younger) because he’d be screamed at/have the police called etc.

      Non gendered bathrooms are the way to go. Or, more privacy in the ones that exist so that nobody sees another person undressed (which is what my local swimming pool does with cubicles)

      1. londonedit*

        Yep – when I was little the rule at the swimming pool we went to was that boys were allowed into the women’s changing rooms up to the age of 7, but then they had to use the men’s. So if you were a woman taking your child/children to the pool, once your son hit 8 then he just had to go and use the men’s changing room by himself. And that doesn’t seem ideal to me (not because I think an 8-year-old is automatically going to be abused in the men’s changing room, just because of practical/health and safety concerns and the fact that many 8-year-olds wouldn’t necessarily feel confident enough to go and change by themselves). If there had been a separate unisex changing room – maybe two or three individual large cubicle-type changing rooms even – then there would have been an option for boys to change with their mother/siblings past the age of 7, which I’m sure many people would have found useful.

        1. Green great dragon*

          Oh, goodness, yes, being a single mom = far too long spent waiting outside the men’s toilets/changing rooms hoping my kid was OK and hadn’t hurt himself/got all his clothes wet/had a toilet accident and wondering at what point I should grab any passing male and ask them to check.

          1. Anonny NonErson*

            A note of appreciation for all the really very kind men that provided this service for me when I was a single mother raising a son.

            “Excuse me, my son is in there and hasn’t come out and I’m sure he’s just playing in the sink but….could you check and tell him his mother is threatening to come in there if he doesn’t come out here now?”

        2. Smithy*

          As a child who was always taller than their peers….I will also say that those age cut offs also end up with a lot of assumptions. For children who read as older based on size, there can also be that increased discomfort of being perceived as being in the wrong place by others in the locker room.

          As a tall child, when you’re 6 and assumed to be 8/9 by the general public – that’s a huge maturity gap. And very often it can be when non-primary caregivers are responsible (i.e. grandparents with their grandkids at a resort on vacation), that they are the least equipped to make that judgement call and just appreciate greater privacy. So giving different caregivers of different children that option in addition to the range of mobility issues where people can benefit from support while changing….it’s hard not to see this as a net positive for customer service in the years to come.

        3. Sasha*

          We have this in our local public swimming pools, and it is great.

          Also means both me and my husband can change together, and whoever finishes first can help my son to change (he is wrapped in a towel drying off and eating snacks while we change). Just speeds everything up. Sex-segregated open-plan changing rooms suck.

    2. Jay*

      Yup. My husband had to take our daughter into the men’s room when she was little. She’s 22 now so there weren’t many (if any) non-gendered bathrooms in our area and it was always a bit awkward.

    3. Critical Rolls*

      You really never know who you’re excluding with some of these policies, or how you’re complicating people’s lives. For example, there are a truly astounding number of places with binary bathrooms that only have a diaper changing station in the women’s room. Infuriating.

    4. Anon Supervisor*

      I used to work retail and really felt for some of the dads with young daughters (too old to go in the men’s room and a little to young to be by themselves for too long). A few times a dad would ask me if they noticed their kid in there (presumably because he was wondering what the hold up was). I would just ask what their kids’ name was and would call out and say their dad wanted to know if they were OK (sometimes they had a little “safe phrase” the kid would give me, which I would ask dad to verify).

  11. Hawthorne*

    I would also like to point out the people who aren’t out who feel uncomfortable using bathrooms at all because of how cis people respond to them in it. A non-gendered bathroom is just a good idea. My partner always has me go into the bathroom with them (if it’s a multi-stall bathroom) because they’re afraid of how people will react, unless it’s an non-gendered bathroom.

    1. Wildcat*

      As a mom to a little boy, I love family restrooms. I have to take my son into the women’s room all the time because he’s still young enough and small enough to need a potty seat and assistance.

  12. Another person here*

    I’ve been a woman my whole life and I have never stopped and scrutinized the other people in a woman’s bathroom with me to determine whether they have a male body or a female body. I think it’s rude to stare.

    In the OP’s scenario, maybe if new bathrooms are out of scope, reconfiguring the shower areas to add doors / private dressing areas would help, and taking out the urinals to add more stalls could also help people of all genders feel more comfortable in all bathrooms.

    1. MI Dawn*

      I agree. I don’t think I’ve ever wondered about another person in the bathroom, if they were being quiet and non-obtrusive (hand washing, teeth brushing, whatever is normal to do).

    2. Oakenfield*

      Seconded, I couldn’t care less if I saw someone who presented as male washing their hands in the “women’s” bathroom or whatever. Even if it was just because the “men’s” bathroom was being cleaned, much less if it was for gender identity reasons.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      I would have said that was true of me as well, but then I did once have the experience once of seeing someone washing their hands in the “women’s” bathroom, and thinking, “wait, is that a man in here???” and then I realized how much it DOESN’T MATTER AT ALL. Who cares! I have no idea what that person’s gender is, and I don’t need to.

      It’s a little weird, but I appreciate having had the experience where I had a gut reaction and then took one second to have a more sensible reaction. We actually talked about this around implicit bias, I think, in a diversity training at work — your first reaction to anything is probably the reaction ingrained in you by society, but you can always take a beat to reframe, rethink.

    4. A Feast of Fools*

      As someone who has identified as female from birth onward, I sincerely wish all locker rooms had private changing areas and “no nudity” policies. I have never been comfortable being naked in front of other people; I have never been comfortable being around naked people. And my few attempts to join gyms were thwarted as soon I saw the shower / changing / restroom areas.

      I tried to get over it at one place and, while I could change my clothes in one of the curtained shower stalls, I couldn’t do anything about the fully nude women standing next to me at the wall of sinks and mirrors, styling their hair or putting makeup on, and trying to engage me in conversation. I canceled my membership on that first day.

      1. evens*

        I agree. I’m not super comfortable with nudity, basically. But I’m much LESS comfortable with a strange man’s nudity than a strange woman’s, and I’m sure I’m not alone. I do feel sensitive to Pat and others like them, but for changing rooms, I think they should go to their biological sex’s changing room. Bathroom? Not a big deal (to me). Changing rooms are a much bigger deal.

        1. Dahlia*

          So you would be comfortable with a man with a beard walking into your locker room solely because he has a vagina?

          Ya sure?

        2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          Trans women are not ‘biologically male’. It’s not just bigotry to say that – it’s also factually, scientifically, biologically incorrect.

          Here’s a video that explains it well, and I’ve pasted the transcript below.

          https://everydayfeminism.com/2017/02/trans-women-not-biologically-male/

          (Note from Alison: I removed the transcript you posted because I can’t infringe on their copyright by reprinting their content — just like another site couldn’t reprint an AAM podcast transcript — but if a transcript is posted somewhere else, feel free to link to that!)

    5. yala*

      For real though. I’ve never gotten this because, like. I’m just trying to get in and out without making eye contact with anyone.

    6. H.Regalis*

      Right? I’ve been in many, many locker rooms. I’ve never once seen a close-up of other people’s bits, because I don’t ogle people. Look at the floor, turn around, whatever. People will be naked: that’s what a changing room is for. But don’t leer.

    7. SenseOrSensibility*

      I definitely don’t scrutinize other people in the bathroom, but I will admit… if I walked out of a stall and saw someone I perceived to be a man standing there, I would get nervous if I was alone. I don’t think that makes me bigoted, just a woman whose been conditioned to fear being alone with strange “men” (even if the person is not a man, I’m still going to have the same fear response if I perceive them to be a man).

      I’m all for normalizing gender neutral bathrooms in general, though. It would only freak me out because it’s unexpected and I would fear nefarious intent.

  13. OrigCassandra*

    I just want to thank Dianna and Kira-Lynn for clear and actionable guidance. Much appreciated!

  14. Camellia*

    Remove the urinals in all bathrooms, have only toilet stalls in all bathrooms (with the walls and doors of each stall reach floor to ceiling), and relabel all restrooms as ‘Family’ restrooms. Now everyone can use whatever restroom they want, without reference to gender identity.

    1. JumpAround*

      Queue me running around trying to find a restroom as a single person because I don’t want to take up the limited family ones lol.

      Not against the idea, but would definitely have to include some kind of info from the desk at check in to avoid confusion.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      That would require further clarification however, depending upon region, as where I live ‘family’ means ‘parent and child only’ and I definitely wouldn’t feel at all okay using a ‘family’ facility as someone without kids.

    3. LCH*

      take off “family,” just call it “restroom”. except for in the states with messed up laws.

  15. MI Dawn*

    Honestly, I would not be bothered by someone of the “wrong” gender standing at a sink brushing their hair or washing their hands. They are not naked, they are not doing anything that exposes their body. Pat wouldn’t bother me or my children at all. I might get a question from them about why a man is in the ladies room (as the OP says Pat presents mostly male at this time), and my answer would be they are ‘doing whatever they were doing – handwashing, whatever’. If any person – male or female – was in the bathroom being a Creepy Person then I’d report that. Not simply Pat doing whatever they are doing that a normal person would be doing at the counter/sinks. And yes, I am a cisgender woman.

    These bathrooms sound communal (multiple stalls/showers in one area), so more likely difficult to convert, and possibly lack of space for a unisex one. Could the OP push for a family bathroom to be added in some way? Given they have older clients, a bathroom that is handicapped capable/family accessible would be a boon for those who need assistance of any age.

    1. Giddyup*

      (as the OP says Pat presents mostly male at this time)

      LW doesn’t say that. LW says that Pat tends to appear more masculine presenting in their work clothes and more feminine presenting in social situations.

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I have been in lockerrooms where women were naked at the sink while for example, blow drying their hair.

      Is it a possible solution to have signs asking for no nudity in the shared spaces of the locker rooms, in this case, the sinks area, since it sounds like all the other areas for changing and showering are private?

    3. pancakes*

      I’ve been in several bars and restaurants where the toilet stalls are individual stalls with a full door and the sink and mirror areas are communal. It’s totally fine. I don’t have kids but it seems ideal for families too, because there’s inevitably a stretch of time where kids are old enough to have mastered potty basics but aren’t old enough for people looking after them to feel comfortable letting them go off on their own.

      Even better, individual stalls with full doors and sinks inside. There aren’t nearly enough of those!

  16. NewYork*

    I think disclosure is important. I would put on the Home Page, Changes in our Facilities. If some guests want to go elsewhere they can.

    1. ecnaseener*

      But it’s not a change, unless the company was previously checking birth certificates at the restroom door.

  17. Juniantara*

    I think the focus on having single-occupant/non-binary changing rooms doesn’t necessarily change the fact that Pat may prefer using the women’s room -I have seen non-binary/gender-nonconforming/trans people pushed into the “non-gender” restrooms which opens its own can of worms. I don’t think you can opt out of this being uncomfortable- you have sets of people who are made uncomfortable by things that make others comfortable. It come down to who has to be uncomfortable.

  18. middle name danger*

    As a nonbinary person, I would strongly suggest a sign at each restroom/locker room to get in front of things. I would not mention only nonbinary guests on it, though. It will benefit binary trans people and gender nonconforming individuals as well. (Many butch lesbians, especially women of color, have been assumed male in women’s restrooms and had issues.) A music venue I’ve worked at a handful of times added signs that say “VENUE NAME supports gender diversity. Please use the restroom that best aligns with your gender identity or expression.” These are little red signs the same width as the men’s/women’s signs with the stick figures, right underneath them. It made me feel much more at ease, instantly.

    1. Popinki (she/her)*

      Yes, make the policy well-known and anyone who doesn’t agree can either find a different resort or use the bathroom in their guest room.

    2. Catherine*

      LW here – this is very helpful, especially as we are trying to get out ahead of any possible situation. I appreciate the input from someone who this directly impacts, and will look for those signs you mention right away.

      1. middle name danger*

        I assume they were custom because they had the venue’s name printed on them!

  19. Painter's Tape*

    Do you also have a policy about opposite-gender personal care attendants?
    For example, if a man needs assistance in the restroom and his wife is his attendant, is she allowed to go inside to provide the needed assistance?

  20. LGBTQ (amab)*

    As an LGBTQ individual who was AMAB but does not identify as a man, I do just want to acknowledge that this is complicated. Honestly, as much as I love that the non-binary category gives room for those of us who don’t fit neatly into the gender binary to feel more comfortable, in specific circumstances like these, it also seems to create somewhat of an unavoidable trade-off that I do not know how to easily resolve.

    Yes, unisex spaces are definitely more comfortable for many of us, but for many cis women/AFABs, unisex spaces are deeply uncomfortable—and for reasons that I have great compassion for. Many AFABs have experienced sexual violence, trauma, and harassment from AMABs and simply would not be able to feel safe or comfortable undressing and showering in the same room as AMABs who are still presenting in a way that most people would read as male. Out of respect for that, I would not use a female-designated shower/changing room in this situation, and to be perfectly honest, it feels somewhat inconsiderate for an AMAB individual who is still *presenting in a way that others will understandably read as male* to do so.

    Part of living in a diverse society is not just thinking about our preferences but also about others’, especially when those preferences cannot fairly be reduced to bigotry or hatred. There is a categorical difference for most women (both cis and trans) between a trans woman who presents as female using the women’s restroom and an AMAB individual who potentially is presenting as male but identifies as non-binary using the women’s restroom. None of the other people in the restroom can be expected to know this individual identifies as non-binary, so if we say that any of their concerns at this point are merely bigotry, then it doesn’t allow them to *ever* have or express any concerns, even if those concerns are reasonable. At that point, many women—both cis and trans—will feel less and less comfortable using public showers and changing rooms altogether, and how much has that really expanded human freedom at that point? I don’t know the exact answers but I am concerned that the advice shared in the post doesn’t sufficiently acknowledge the complexity of the situation or the fact that some of those complaining may have legitimate concerns that we shouldn’t just dismiss.

    1. bamcheeks*

      . At that point, many women—both cis and trans—will feel less and less comfortable using public showers and changing rooms altogether, and how much has that really expanded human freedom at that point

      It’s more likely that public showers and changing rooms will just switch to having fewer shared-undressed spaces, and more separate rooms/cubicles– which does not impinge even the tiniest bit on anyone’s human freedom?

      1. LGBTQ (amab)*

        Yes, I should’ve added that sort of move would be welcome and beneficial for all. The trade-off seems to be more in the interim for facilities that are having to address these situations with their current set-up and without the resources to remodel at this time.

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I think this will be the way of the future as new public restrooms, locker rooms, etc are constructed. Most gay/lesbian people were highly closeted until very recently, and it was long assumed that separating the sexes was sufficient to prevent any unwanted ogling.

    2. Neither Nor Both*

      While this may make sense in some scenarios/for some people, what are you supposed to do if you’re a non-binary person who is perceived differently by different people on a daily basis? I’m a non-binary trans person and the best way I have of choosing which bathroom I “belong” in is the average of how strangers have gendered me on that particular day, and the context of the particular bathroom. It’s really impossible to account for *everyone else’s* comfort or preferences when you present androgynously (even if you’re cis!). Regardless of whether other people’s concerns comes from a place of bigotry or hatred, everyone should have the right to use a bathroom and if gender non-conforming people were to take strangers’ comfort/preferences into account we wouldn’t be able to use most public restrooms at all.

    3. ElizabethJane*

      I think the nuance is that your (the general “you” for women, cis or trans) comfort level is a you problem to manage because there is never going to be a one size fits all approach.

      I have a very close friend. I’ll call her Kate. Kate has XY chromosomes, female genitals, uses she/her pronouns, happens to have a very flat chest naturally, and takes T because she likes to have a beard. Even when we were in high school Kate was more androgynous looking and really had to work to be decidedly female with clothing, hairstyle, and makeup. Now with the beard she looks more masculine most of the time, though sometimes she does go out all out with makeup, a dress, heels, a push up bra, and she just looks like a very pretty bearded woman.

      It is not Kate’s job to evaluate if she looks feminine enough on any given day to use the women’s restroom. It is not Kate’s job to decide if maybe she looks feminine enough to use the women’s restroom with me (a younger woman who general signals more liberal beliefs with funky colored hair, visible tattoos, and a less conservative style of dress) but not feminine enough to use the bathroom with a random grandma.

      The entire point is that gender is a spectrum. It is categorically impossible to decide a point on that spectrum that says “If X, do Y, if Y, do X”. The nuance here seems lost because the nuance is actually “Deal with your own comfort level and let people be themselves.”

    4. Anon4This*

      This is a very thoughtful response. The situation is incredibly complicated, and I don’t know the solution. A lot of commenters focused on making family/unisex RESTROOMS but the issue here is that it’s a locker/changing room. While the LW points out that the toilets and showers are in stalls, every locker room I’ve ever been in had people changing in the common areas, and occasionally people who were comfortable walking around naked for a while. In other words the possibility of being exposed to genitals is not zero.

      Personally, I would have zero problem sharing a space with a trans woman or non-binary person, but I would have a problem sharing an intimate space with a cis-man. If someone is walking around with their penis hanging out*, there’s no way for me to know if they are a trans/non-binary person just living their life or a cis-male whose there to harass women and girls.

      Probably the best option is to make sure there is sufficient changing space that people don’t need to get undressed in the common areas, then enforce behavior. The greyer line is what is unacceptable behavior, and personally I’d consider ‘exposing genitalia’ to be unacceptable.

      *I have experienced this- when my daughter was young we and several other women/girls were plagued by a flasher in the YMCA women’s dressing room.

      1. miro*

        A commentator above mentioned having encountered no-nudity dressing rooms (I think you change in stalls but aren’t allowed to be naked in common areas) and honestly that seems like a great idea for so many reasons!

      2. KarteSnowMachineChopsIt*

        This is a very good response to a complicated situation. Finding a solution that solves everything and is inclusive of everyone is not really possible in this scenario

    5. miro*

      > “it feels somewhat inconsiderate for an AMAB individual who is still *presenting in a way that others will understandably read as male* to do so.”

      Well, first off, we don’t know that Pat is AMAB, and the fact that they read in a way that some people read as male doesn’t actually tell us anything about their sex assigned at birth.

      Secondly, if the parts of the locker rooms where people are naked are indeed curtained off (it seems like there’s some slightly different readings in the comments, but this was how I interpreted it and certainly seems like a good way to go if it’s not the case) then nobody should have any idea of anyone else’s genitals anyway (though, of course, that may or may not line up with the person’s sex assigned at birth). So really, all people could be going off of then is the fact that Pat sometimes reads as male. But the thing is, plenty of other people might be read as male or AMAB when they’re not. If a cis, butch woman is “*presenting in a way that others will understandably read as male*” and someone is uncomfortable, then is she being inconsiderate? Why not? What exactly is the combination of identities/situations/presentations that should be using each bathroom?

      Also: I’m a man with long hair (and a fairly bushy beard, though I guess it’s partially covered by a mask these days) and the vast, vast majority of people who come into my workplace think I’m a woman. Should I change my habits or the bathroom I use because sometimes people make mistakes or have weird hangups about what a given gender looks like? I don’t think so, and I don’t think other people should have to either.

      And maybe you’ll say that this is different because I’m using the men’s bathroom, and maybe it is, but my point here is that people will make all kinds of assumptions about gender and I tend to think that anything along the lines of “if people just follow the gender rules, everything would be fine” (or the flip side “you didn’t follow the gender rules and so this is your fault”) is pretty foolish.

  21. Sick of Workplace Bullshit (she/her)*

    Amazing! Thank you, Alison, for taking on this question, and for the expert advice from Dianna and Kira-Lynn.

  22. Non-tech person*

    Regarding Dianna Anderson’s suggestion about not allowing people to take photos of other guests in the restrooms, can you also ask that guests also not take photos of themselves in the restroom? Maybe I’m old, but there’s too many selfies!

    Or do people take selfies in the restroom and zoom on their photo (instead of using a magnifying mirror)?

    1. Phony Genius*

      Just a no photos policy would keep it simple. You never know who will be caught inadvertently in the background of a selfie.

      1. Sporty Yoda*

        Also gives a “quality control” layer; you can’t get away with “oh, I wasn’t taking a picture of this nonbinary person to harass them! I was just taking a selfie! You can’t control who’s in your background!”

      2. EchoGirl*

        Yep. There was a case in a major sporting league a few years ago where a player was trying to record his team’s post-game celebrations only to inadvertently catch a teammate naked in the background. (The teammate actually laughed it off, but the guy who shot the video was mortified.) Even if you really don’t intend any harm, it’s just too easy to end up catching something in the background that shouldn’t be photographed/recorded.

    2. anonymath*

      This was policy in the changing rooms at the gym at my former workplace (a university) — no photos EVER in the bathroom or changing areas. Putting aside everything about gender, there is the privacy violation of capturing naked photos of people without their consent, either intentionally for nefarious purposes or unintentionally because you’re taking a selfie in the mirror and capture someone emerging from the shower area.

    3. Beany*

      Some people use their smartphone reverse camera as a “mirror” to get a close-up look of their face. It doesn’t mean they’re capturing the image as a photo, but I agree that others around them don’t know whether they’re being recorded or not.

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      This. Nobody should be taking any photos in a restroom or locker room, of themselves or others. It’s too easy to miss something in the background.

    5. LizB*

      The gym I went to for a long time had a straight-up “no phone use in the locker rooms” rule. No selfies, no calls, no playing music (although if you were using headphones nobody would notice), nothing. It was mildly inconvenient since I had workout trackers and whatnot on my phone, but I understood the need to draw a bright line and did all my workout recording, playlist arranging, video watching, etc. outside the locker rooms.

    6. Elizabeth I*

      My understanding is that it’s against federal law to take a photo of someone where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy – such as a locker room where people are changing out in the open.

      Related story: Once at the gym when I was walking naked from my locker to the showers (there were no private changing areas), I came across a girl taking a selfie and almost landed in in her photo, naked. I let her know in no uncertain terms that taking a photo here was 100% illegal under federal law and she CANNOT be taking selfies in a locker room where they may be naked people. It was absurd that I even had to point that out! And I’m the kind of person who would never-ever-ever take a nude photo because I don’t want it to end up anywhere, so to almost be in one against my will was very disconcerting and angering.

    7. justnorecordingdevicesok?*

      I would also add – NO FACETIMING/VIDEO CONFERENCING someone in the locker room!
      I came across this – some lady was facetiming someone (I assume boyfriend from the context of the call) in the locker room and discovered I was visible in the mirror reflection changing).
      She wasn’t recording the call and I’m sure her face took up the majority of the screen but it did make me super uncomfortable.

    8. it’s funny because it’s true*

      in my state it’s decidedly illegal to take pictures of any kind in any public restroom. I was in high school in the smart phone era and there were signs that you cannot use your camera in the restroom and it was enforced, especially in the gym locker rooms

  23. gmg22*

    I know LW is in a tough spot because there does not seem to be an option to address the infrastructure, so I should stress for starters that this comment isn’t intended specifically as advice but rather as a thought provoked by this letter. What stories like this tell me is that we are overdue, as a society, to revisit the open-plan approach to these kinds of facilities (especially when open-plan is the ONLY option available), and the need for gender inclusivity is the pressing thing making that clear, but not the only thing. Plenty of people aren’t comfortable with it regardless of gender, but we go along with it because it’s how things have always been done. I am a cis straight woman and tbh I don’t really enjoy being naked or semi-clothed in a locker room in view of other women I don’t know, so why should I have to when facilities with a wider variety of privacy options can be designed? (My European friends find the US approach to public bathroom stalls more than a little bizarre, with the opening underneath, gap in the door etc, just to give a related example.)

    My local YMCA opened a new building a few years ago and it features traditional locker rooms but also a large number of private shower/changing rooms for individuals or small family groups to use. They promoted this in part as a way to be inclusive of trans and nonbinary people — though important to note that they also made VERY clear that trans or nonbinary people should use the traditional locker room of their choice when that is their preference. But the moral of the story is that anybody who wants more privacy can use these rooms, and IMO it’s a win for a respectful, comfort-centering approach all around.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yes. Being in the same bathroom or changing area or whatever with other cis women does not make me comfortable just because we have the same body configurations. And your friend is absolutely correct about the bathroom gaps.

      Maybe I’m a prude, maybe we’re a prudish culture, but naked strangers make me uncomfortable – and if that’s trauma related it’s not specific to the people I have trauma from or their body types. I’m all for rethinking this as a culture.

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Airports in Europe that have floor to ceiling stall doors (even in pretty tiny cubicles) plus bonus points for a tiny sink inside are the best! I don’t know why we can’t have them in the states – everyone enjoys a modicum of privacy when using the loo. And sometimes people have appliances (ostomy bags or even dentures) that make an added sink for washing up a big bonus.

      1. Siege*

        Because it’s part of a long-standing fear in America that criminal activity of some kind, whether sexual, drug-related, or other, is happening in bathrooms, and the higher the likelihood of criminal activity, generally, there is a direct correlation to the size of the doors. The smallest doors I’ve ever seen have been in areas where you can just make the reasonable guess that the areas are high crime. I don’t think that’s right, because it’s solving a “problem” by creating another problem (vigilanteeism should never be the right answer) but it’s what I’ve heard stated as the reason, and what I’ve extrapolated from restrooms. It’s giving the illusion of privacy to highlight that you only have privacy by the courtesy of the governing body of that bathroom.

        1. Danish*

          The downtown mall foodcourt remodelled a few years ago to have all the bathroom doors be about two feet tall, elevated off the ground such that if you are of “average” height you are technically only visible from the shins down while sitting on the toilet. If you’re standing, are slightly tall, or anyone walks by the stall you’re in, you are basically completely visible.

          It’s deeply uncomfortable and also makes me so angry to have this visible display of “we value ~not encouraging crime~ more than human dignity.

    3. Rara Avis*

      My local YMCA is fairly new (15 years, maybe) and has family changing rooms/bathrooms but little privacy in the gendered locker rooms. The only choices are to change in a toilet stall or one of the few showers. I don’t have time for that nonsense, so I throw on my bathing suit in a non-private space. And I get mean stares from the mothers of boys who are too old, both by common sense and YMCA policy, to be in the woman’s locker room. (The policy is 3 and under can come in; older than that has to use to family rooms.) If you don’t want your 10-year-old boy to look at my aging, chubby body, take him to the family room! But as for who pees next door to me, or washes hands at the sinks — really, that is not a concern for me. I have been part of restroom take overs at severely under-resourced public spaces — the men’s room is empty; the women’s room has a line around the block, so let’s use the resources sensibly so that we can all pee before intermission is over.

      One challenge of creating singleton restrooms, though, is that it often means a lessening of total numbers of toilets. My school converted two gendered 3-seaters into singletons, which made the lines to use them more than 3 times as long, as you now have to wait for users to wash their hands as well. What’s the happy medium between making spaces safe for everyone while not lessening the available toilets/showers/changing spaces? I wish I knew!

  24. Katie*

    Having done accounting for some of these high end resorts for long term stay they are by far the cheapest and stingiest. It will be a long time before they agree to do construction.

  25. A Pinch of Salt*

    We went to a concert last night and the bathrooms were labeled “stalls and urinals” and “stalls only”. Pretty much a “do your business where you’re comfortable” set up.

    Not sure if that’s helpful here,but it was great! Added benefit was no long lines for the ladies’ room because we could go to the stalls what was historically the men’s room!

    1. miro*

      I saw a similar thing just yesterday! Though I will say, upon coming around the corner and just seeing the “[toilet graphic] only” sign without the context of the “[toilet graphic] + [urinal graphic]” sign on the other door, my first reaction was “wait, what about the sinks?”

    2. Siege*

      Doesn’t really address the changing rooms and shower situations the OP wrote in about, does it?

  26. Ask a Manager* Post author

    All comments on this post are now going through moderation first, which means there will be a delay before they appear (nor will transphobic comments be released).

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Your stance on keeping this forum civil, constructive and not allowing bigotry is a big part of why I advocate this site regularly to people at work.

      1. fieldpoppy*

        That’s exactly what I was going to day, Keymaster — how much I appreciate Alison’s strong and clear and equity-focused voice. I know this is huge emotional labour for you and I really appreciate you doing it.

      2. Sloanicota*

        I really appreciate how much additional work it must be for Alison to moderate the comments and make sure the comments are made in good faith, particularly since only a sub-section of site readers venture into the comments anyway. I can only say that the commentariat here is a huge reason I’m such an avid reader of AAM.

      3. Catherine*

        LW here – absolutely agreed! Sometimes we all need a space to openly ask the hard questions, and get honest answers, Alison and associates are sincerely appreciated.

    2. Empress Matilda*

      Thanks Alison – we appreciate the extra work you’re putting in to keep this place safe.

  27. Lavender*

    Nonbinary reader here!

    My take on the whole bathroom issue is that if somebody enters a public bathroom with the intent to harass people, it would be pretty clear from the outset that that’s what they’re doing – and that should be dealt with appropriately regardless of the person’s gender. (In other words, the issue is that the person is harassing other people – not that they’re harassing people in the “wrong” bathroom.) If somebody enters a public bathroom in order to use it for its intended purpose, in a stall, with the door closed…then who cares? They’re not hurting anyone.

    Of course the ideal solution here would be to have a gender-neutral bathroom, but if that’s not an option, I would respond to any complaints with “Is this person acting inappropriately?” And if the answer is no, then I’d say it’s not an issue in that case. I’d err on the side of not bringing gender into it at all – because again, the issue is whether or not the bathroom user is harassing anyone, not whether or not they’re in the “correct” bathroom.

    1. BubbleTea*

      Your point about harassment can be expanded – someone who intends to harass other bathroom users will not be deterred by a gender-specific sign. There is no magical power inherent in a picture of a person in a skirt that somehow keeps out people with ill intent.

      I assume the idea is that if there’s a sign, then people can challenge someone who is in the “wrong” room, but if someone has ill intentions then they’re not going to be put off by someone saying “hey, this is the women’s room!” and if they don’t, all a challenge has achieved is to make everyone uncomfortable.

      1. Cremedelagremlin*

        I’m enjoying the image of a person just walking into a busy room and clapping enthusiastically for no reason…

  28. Sparkles McFadden*

    The bathroom/changing room argument is one I point to when I tell people that inclusivity benefits all of us. The current binary set up means people who want privacy can’t get privacy and somehow, the lack of privacy is supposed to be OK because we all have bodies that are similar enough. The real reason is, of course, that it’s cheaper to set up big open spaces, like those crazy peeing troughs men are supposed to be OK with using.

    I am a cis-women and I have spent decades in gym changing room where total strangers think it’s OK to comment on my body. I tried out a new gym and on my second time there, a women commented that if I kept coming regularly “that fat will come off in no time.” Another women commented that I hadn’t done a good enough job shaving my underarms. Then, I got to witness a women prop her foot up on the bench I was sitting on so she could put in a tampon. I’ve been told stories by plenty of men who hate the total lack of privacy, and the fact that their bathrooms have mostly urinals (because, again, cheaper).

    As I said to someone who objected to designating a workplace bathroom unisex: “If there are all private stalls, I wouldn’t know if Dracula was in the next stall. Who cares?”

    1. Lavender*

      Yeah, whenever people complain about “not wanting to see male genitalia in the women’s room” or whatever, my response is always, “Uhh, I don’t see anybody’s genitalia in the women’s room, because that’s what the stalls are for.”

    2. Amber Rose*

      Yes! I hate public change rooms, and when I was in school I used to get shamed for waiting until a bathroom stall came open to change in it for PE. It’s bad enough people feel entitled to comment on me fully clothed, I’m not apologizing for not wanting to expose my unclothed self to commentary.

    3. JustaTech*

      When I went away to sleep-away camp (all girls) one of the first things you learned was the fine art of completely changing your clothing without ever fully disrobing, because there was zero privacy (and the toilet stalls had spiders).
      For folks hitting puberty this can be miserable, even if everyone else is kind and chill (which some people decidedly were not). I really don’t understand why we can’t put in the effort for a little more privacy.

      (Case in point: the giant undergraduate/staff gym at Big State U. In the (enormous) women’s locker room there were stall showers and also a “shower forest” of just a bunch of showerheads on poles out in the open. In theory this saved space because a dozen people could shower in an area that would only hold maybe 4 shower stalls. Except I only ever saw one person use it, because it was so exposed to the rest of the locker room. Facilities that no one will use aren’t saving anything.)

    4. penny dreadful analyzer*

      I once went to a gym where each shower cube was specifically partitioned into a changing area and a shower area, and some lady scolded me for changing in the changing part of the shower stall instead of out in the communal area because it meant I was occupying the stall for an extra 30 seconds every morning, and she quite literally and specifically told me that I ought to be comfortable being naked in front of all the strangers because I was young and pretty. Like, thanks, that definitely doesn’t make it worse!

      Anyway yeah some cis women are entirely too comfortable around other cis women and need to learn that total strangers are still total strangers even if you do (assume that you) have the same genitals

    5. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      hah, I grew up in a clothing optional resort (aka nudist camp) and I was still not prepared for a gym where there were a group of women who would blow-dry their genitals.

      As someone who now has some scars that seem to invite rude questions I prefer privacy in normal pool/gym changing areas. Clothing optional resorts on the other hand tend to understand body privacy at a much higher level.

    6. SnappinTerrapin*

      More privacy is a good idea. If public restrooms and locker rooms were designed to afford everyone privacy, there would be less reason to worry about who goes into which anteroom of those facilities.

  29. Dianna*

    You’re making a lot of assumptions here, none of which are applicable to the situation above, nor are they relevant to the discussion. You’re also assuming any trans, non-binary, or GNC folks aren’t themselves terrified to be in these situations. I’m non-binary (hi, I’m the one from the responses up there!), and I have been *screamed at* by cis women who thought I was in the wrong restroom, who then also moved toward me menacingly. That was far more disruptive than my presence, which was simply “I need to pee.”

    Try to imagine how hard it is for us to even get up the courage to use the facilities because of the risk of people like you who are convinced that they are “defending women.”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I suspect it was in response to a comment that I was in the process of removing for bigotry; I’m leaving Dianna’s response since they’re an author of one of the responses in the post itself!

    1. Lavender*

      I will never understand TERFs in general, but I will especially never understand why TERFs seem to believe that trans/nonbinary/GNC folks are actively trying to oppress cis women.

      1. Popinki (she/her)*

        And it’s insulting to women, implying that we’re these fragile beings who need protection from the Big Bad Trans Menace, and using us as an excuse to harass people who never did them bit of harm and who are just trying to live their lives.

        The only thing I care about in regards to someone in a public restroom is if they wash their hands.

        1. Lavender*

          I agree – I wish there was a better term to use to describe their specific brand of transphobia. (If there is, I’d like to know so I can change my vocabulary accordingly!)

        2. TyphoidMary*

          I actually think it’s helpful to distinguish TERF as a specific category of transphobe. They generally aligns with the liberal politics of their country, and they claim their transphobia is out of concern for “real” women’s oppression. I find it particularly dangerous bc their rhetoric appeals to folks who would simply dismiss a right-wing conservative who just talks about “hating queers,” for example.

          1. Lavender*

            My issue with the term is that it stands for “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist” – if their “feminism” doesn’t include trans women, then it isn’t feminism. I think there should be a distinct term for that specific group of people, but not one that labels them as feminists. (That said, I still call them TERFs for now because to my knowledge there isn’t an alternate term that serves the same purpose.)

        3. WantonSeedStitch*

          I personally love the acronym FART that I’ve seen used instead: “Feminism-Appropriating Radical Transphobes.”

          Interestingly, I just today saw a Facebook memory from this day in 2016 where I noted that someone in my office had covered up the “men’s” and “women’s” signs on the bathrooms in our office with pictures of Prince’s “love symbol” in purple, shortly after his death. Everyone just kept on using the restrooms they always had, but those signs stayed up for a long time!

        4. Liz T*

          I’m a passionate feminist myself, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that mainstream feminism has its own history of exclusion. Modern TERFs have a lot in common with the wing of Second Wavers who openly and intentionally excluded lesbians from the movement. (“Lavender Menace” was coined unironically by Betty Friedan! Can’t call her not a feminist.) So I get a little nervous when people try to No-True-Scotsman away the TERFs.

          That said, at this point a lot of TERFs are just co-opting feminist rhetoric and have no organic connection to feminist ideology or advocacy. I prefer to reserve it for organized British TERFs, who are *truly* in a league of their own.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        It’s like people who say “won’t someone think of the children!” They’re not really thinking of the children, or the cis women. They’re thinking of a good “victim” to use as a rallying point.

      3. Clean the seat please*

        Yes! As a cis gender straight female, I am wary, even frightened of cis gender straight men. Anyone I perceive as gay, non-binary or otherwise not, I notice that my anxiety goes way down. Teenagers with tattoos, nose rings, goth clothes, bearded ladies, I feel like “whew, they don’t want to hurt me”, they just want to exist. This is visceral, not a choice.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      A couple of the responses to the ‘but people with male parts should be banned from the womens facilities!’ manager at work (a stance I do NOT agree with) put me in mind of yours very well.

      One from my non binary member of staff who asked people to consider their very real fear of being harassed regardless of what bathroom they used when they simply just wanted to go to the bog/shower off after being covered in railway grime.

      The other was from a trans man who said that under this manager’s rule he’d be forced to use the womens loos because he hasn’t had surgery but didn’t fancy the anger he’d get as a big bearded bloke who clearly uses he/him walking into the ladies shower. And did the manager have a solution to that?

      The line is for me, and most of the people here, is that when someone wants to use the loo/shower/tidy themselves up at the sink it’s just a need and it truly doesn’t matter what others think (or shouldn’t matter) as their intent is just to take care of a human need! They’re not going to be harassing others or taking photos.

      And the people who *are* intent on harassment or worse are not going to be put off by signs on the doors/rules anyway.

      Have effective means of complaining and investigation for actual harassment. But ‘that person looks like they have the wrong pants contents to use that facility’ isn’t harassment.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Yes he did, but it was stuff I am not going to repeat here. It was exceptionally bigoted.

  30. LDN Layabout*

    Remodelling is an option (and I acknowledge it’s an expensive one and whoever holds the purse strings may not care), but it also requires careful design e.g. you’d want those shower curtains to be lockable doors instead.

    For simplicity’s sake, if there are currently two gender segregated areas, working towards having one unisex/family and splitting the other into two smaller male and female areas could also work.

  31. Edward Cullen*

    I have nothing insightful to add (other than a +1 to the oft-repeated non-gendered washroom suggestion), but this was a really enlightening read! Thank you, Dianna and Kira-Lynn, for providing your feedback. I’m a cis individual and while I always hope to be inclusive and understanding, I’m rather ignorant about how to approach trans issues; reading their replies definitely made me re-think my initial response to LW.

    1. Miss Muffet*

      +1! super helpful to just listen in on the discussion and hear the perspectives of trans/nb people directly, in order to hone my thoughts and approach. Helps us all to be more sensitive and thoughtful *before* we stick our feet in our mouths!

  32. Three Goblins in a Trench Coat*

    I’m going to lend my voice to the non-gendered facilities chorus. It’s more welcoming for a variety of reasons. One thing that could be done to make everyone more comfortable with minimal expense is replace plastic curtains (which, from my experience rarely provide much privacy) with louver doors or something similar to increase privacy in the shower areas. Otherwise, people can handle sharing the sink areas with others. It’s not too much to ask for inclusivity.

    1. Lizzo*

      +1! Plastic curtains provide an illusion of privacy. Give me a door that closes securely and can be locked, please!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood, CTA*

        At least make them oversized with magnets attaching them to the walls.

  33. Picard*

    In our local arts building, we had gendered single room bathrooms. (which I know is a slightly different scenario) Several years ago, the arts committee hosted a “People Library” which included a trans MTF person. It really opened my eyes to the difficulties (and dangers) potentially experienced by all trans and NB folks. Within a month, I had presented to the board and had approved that ALL bathrooms were non gendered and the only signage included a family note if there was a changing table. All this to say that I do think your best final solution is to have at least one non gendered/family whatever room made. It CAN be done – it may be a matter of budget or inclination or pushing but its truly really worth it.
    Until then, posted signs, education of staff and clear expectations to ALL (resident, guests and staff) is going to be your best solution for the immediate short term.

    1. Junior Assistant Peon*

      Gendered single room bathrooms are idiotic. You always see like 3 women in line for the women’s room while the men’s room is sitting empty. I never understood the point of this.

      1. louvella*

        They don’t make any sense. I’m a cis woman but when this is the case I just use whichever one is available. My last workplace had this set-up and I used the men’s way more often than the women’s because it was available more often and I got some weird looks but no one ever actually said anything.

      2. Phony Genius*

        I once visited a field office that had gendered single-occupancy bathrooms. The staff was about 80/20 male. One of the other male visitors went into the women’s bathroom. Oh, did he hear it from the female office manager (and got a formal write-up). The perception is that men are messier, and so the women wanted a bathroom for themselves. (Of course, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy if one bathroom gets 4 times as much use as the other.)

  34. H.Regalis*

    It made me happy to read this post today. Obviously, the stinky TERF comments are garbage; but I was glad to read Kira-Lynn and Dianna’s thoughtful responses, and I am glad Alison is heavily moderating the comments to ensure it doesn’t turn into a cesspool.

    My rough rule of thumb with gender stuff is if you can swap out “trans/NB person” for something like POC and LGBT, and it sounds really fucked up and discriminatory, then it’s being discriminatory to trans and NB folks. For example, “My 14 year old daughter would not be comfortable undressing in front of a black person” or “My 14 year old daughter would not be comfortable undressing in front of a lesbian.” Super not okay, yeah? Then it’s not okay when we’re talking about trans and NB folks either.

  35. Scotlibrarian*

    Thank you for the OP (and staff) for wanting to support non binary people, to Alison for keeping this space safe and supportive, and for the two experts for their thoughtful and helpful responses. Non gendered, private, showers, toilets and cubicles (with proper doors) are much the best for everyone – they remove potential areas of concern for those who prefer privacy, they reduce opportunities for bigotry, they allow people to get on with their lives without all the nonsense, and they remove the long women’s toilet queue / no queue for the men’s loo.

    1. Just EW*

      It’s not always bigotry. People can present however they want but they should stay dressed regardless of gender. I don’t want to see naked people. My young daughter does not want to see a penis even if it’s on a female. If I don’t know someone very well and usually even if I do, I don’t want to see privates. Dressing rooms should be gender neutral and closed off so people can have privacy.

      1. LizB*

        Given what you’ve described, you are clearly covered by the previous clause: “they remove potential areas of concern for those who prefer privacy”. Private changing areas meet your needs AND reduce the opportunities for people to be bigoted. I’m not sure why you would protest Scotlibrarian including more than one reason why private facilities are good.

      2. Critical Rolls*

        If someone doesn’t have a problem with an open-plan changing area until someone trans or nonbinary enters the picture, it IS bigotry. And the comment you’re responding to noted the general privacy issue, so I’m not really sure what you’re arguing with.

      3. Yikes*

        I mean, if “don’t want to see anyone’s genitals” is your only objection, then I imagine you can continue doing what you’ve presumably been doing in locker rooms all along, which is not looking at anyone’s genitals. Otherwise, the real objection is “specifically don’t want to see a trans/NB’s person’s genitals but cis genitals are fine,” which is indeed bigotry. Sorry.

  36. Cataclysm*

    One thing I will say is that for anyone trying to transition from two gendered bathrooms to having one non-gendered, please do NOT do what my RA did. When my dorm agreed to make a bathroom gender neutral, the (male) RA – who mentioned to me there was something like 40 female residents and 2 male residents in the building (no one openly non-binary) – decided to make the FEMALE bathroom the gender neutral one.

    Yeah, I’m still annoyed with him about that one.

    (In short – if you have 2 gendered bathrooms and are going to make one non-gendered, please account for traffic balancing)

    1. Darla*

      That’s what they did at my university. They converted most of the existing women’s restrooms into “Women and Gender Neutral / Non Binary). They left the men’s rooms as they were. It was weird, a little sexist, and seemed extremely invalidating for trans men or NB people even (why are all the NBs lumped together with the women’s room, and not just trans women?).

  37. Cataclysm*

    One thing I will say is that for anyone trying to transition from two gendered bathrooms to having one non-gendered, please do NOT do what my RA did. When my dorm agreed to make a bathroom gender neutral, the (male) RA – who mentioned to me there was something like 40 female residents and 2 male residents in the building (no one openly non-binary) – decided to make the FEMALE bathroom the gender neutral one. You can imagine what happened next. And yes, I did see him several times in the now even more crowded gender neutral bathroom

    Yeah, I’m still annoyed with him about that one.

    (In short – if you have 2 gendered bathrooms and are going to make one non-gendered, please account for traffic balancing)

    1. Temperance*

      In my experience, it is always the ladies that gets converted to “gender neutral” due to the lack of urinals. Which … absolutely BS.

    2. NeedRain47*

      Part of the problem with making one existing restroom gender neutral is that preferably it will have stalls only, not urinals. Which means it’s nearly always the “ladies'” regardless of the overall makeup of people who will be using it.

    3. Wildcat*

      There’s also often an aspect that involves gender stereotypes. We’re used to little boys in women’s locker rooms because moms have to change their sons, but the same isn’t true for men taking their daughters into changing rooms.

  38. Wisteria*

    Hi OP,

    I see that the organization doesn’t have room to build a new changing/restroom facility. Is it possible for you to advocate for upgrading the privacy in the existing facilities? That is, replace all curtains with floor to ceiling doors with no gaps, replace existing doors that are not floor to ceiling and replace existing doors that have gaps, etc. While you mention toilet stalls and showers, it’s not clear whether there are private changing spaces. Sure, you can change your clothes in a toilet stall, but it’s easier to change clothes in a changing room like the ones in stores. Is there any room in the locker rooms to add a few changing stalls?

    Increased privacy will make many people of many genders more comfortable, regardless of who else is in the facility with them. I think changing your infrastructure to give increased comfort to everyone will improve adoption of multi-gender facilities by people who are used to single gender facilities.

    1. Catherine*

      OP here – we can’t change the physical layout of the building but we can definitely change the interiors to add/upgrade to floor to ceiling partitions, solid shower doors rather than curtains, that sort of thing. I’m currently working on the 2023 budget for capital projects, so guess what just got added! Do you think there’s any concern with doing the “women’s” bathrooms first and the “men’s” in 2024 due to budget for something like that, or should the both be done at the same time?

      1. Mostly Managing*

        I don’t think there’s a problem with doing one set of change rooms first and then the other.

        I’d put up a sign, though. Something like “as part of our ongoing upgrades, this room will be closed for renovations on these dates, and that one will be closed on those dates”

      2. Beatrice*

        Is there a reason why you would do the women’s first and not the men’s (until 2024)? You might want to think about why the assumption is that the female gendered bathroom is the first to be altered. Other commenters are sharing that their workplaces altered ONLY the women’s bathrooms which is pretty invalidating to trans men and AFAB non binary people.

        I would also make sure that there is someplace to disrobe out of the shared space, since people can’t really bring their clothing to the shower stall and undress there – the clothing would get wet.

      3. Wisteria*

        My input would be to do both at the same time. If you need to spread the cost out, maybe do all the stall doors in both areas in 2023 and replace the curtains in 2024?

        Your letter is about Pat specifically, and during these discussions, people always jump to the comfort of cis women when in the company of AMAB individuals. In the larger picture, there are AFAB people who need a comfortable space if their gender is appropriate to using the men’s room, and there are cis men and binary trans men who would be weirded out by an AFAB individual sharing a locker or bathroom space with them. So, in looking for a solution, don’t prioritize infrastructure by gender!

        1. Jerusha*

          I agree with Wisteria that you should do both simultaneously, and in phases if that’s what the budget demands (including, if you only have budget to do 50% of the showers in one year, do 50% of the showers in each locker room, not 100% in one and 0% in the other). I’d probably put the showers above the stalls, though, because more can be exposed to an inadvertent observer by a blowing shower curtain than the gaps in a “standard” bathroom stall. However, if the showers are not heavily used, maybe the toilets should be done first. I’d probably break it down like this:

          [Things you might be able to do outside the confines of the capital budget]
          (0.5: Is there a quick and low cost solution to gaps between toilet stall doors and the stall walls? Like putting a strip of something opaque so it blocks the lateral gaps when the door is closed? If so, do that first; if not, it’ll be taken care of when the stalls are redone.)
          (0.75: Is there an easy way to set up non-shower-related dressing cubicles in the existing locker rooms? If it can be done at reasonable cost, go ahead and do so now. If it needs to be capital expenditure, bump it to the list below)

          [Capital budget outlays]
          1: Remodel/redo all showers so each has a dressing cubicle (if they don’t already). Walls of dressing cubicles and showers should be floor-to-ceiling. [If each shower doesn’t have its own drain, then small – like 4″ or so – gaps may be needed between shower cubicles.] Door between dressing cubicle and main room should be full-length and opaque (solid or, as suggested else-thread, louvered), and not have gaps around the sides. The division between the shower proper and the dressing cubicle can remain a curtain if that’s more feasible at present, but ideally will eventually have a door of its own to keep shower spray from intruding on the dressing cubicle when the curtain blows around. Also, if none of your current showers are accessible, make at least one so (including both shower stall and changing cubicle).
          2: Replace toilet stalls with ones that have floor-to-ceiling dividers and full-height opaque doors. Consider whether to put urinals in full stalls as well (and/or replace urinals with toilets in full stalls) if they aren’t already.
          3: Replace communal changing spaces with individual cubicles (with full-height walls and doors). Include at least one extra-large changing cubicle in each locker room for families and/or people with greater space needs, including those with mobility difficulties. Once there are sufficient private changing spaces [depending on circumstances, the ones attached to the showers may constitute “enough” – it depends on your usage patterns], implement a no-wandering-around-naked policy. Consider outfitting at least one, if not all, cubicles with mirrors and electrical outlets so anyone with modesty requirements can dry their hair privately and cover up before re-entering the communal space. [It might be nice to hang a curtain over the mirror – people who need the mirror can open the curtain, and people who don’t won’t be forced to see themselves in the mirror while dressing.]

      4. Heidi*

        I can’t be the only person who sees a shower with a curtain as only slightly better than no curtain at all. It never completely covers the width of the stall and, often, will blow wherever it wants when air patterns change. One place, anytime the door to the restroom opened, the shower curtains would flap.

        1. Shad*

          I’ve been in one or two locker rooms that had rings at each side of the curtain and hooks in the side wall to hold the curtain closed.
          At that point, I’m not sure what the point of using a curtain vs a door is, but those did feel secure to me.

  39. Posilutely*

    I agree. I’m usually wrapped up in my own thoughts enough that I can’t imagine I’d be totting up anyone’s gender characteristics in the bathroom in a weird attempt to label them as ‘approved’ or ‘needs reporting’. We’re all people, just get on with your day! I might notice three goblins in a trench coat though and give a sideways look in the mirror. Or I might not.

    1. Posilutely*

      (This was a reply to the comment left by Three Goblins in a Trench Coat, if that helps it make more sense!)

  40. StellaBella*

    Can you retrofit both bathrooms to be unisex? And post the inclusion policies and no photos etc policies in both? Two new signs on doors, maybe a new urinal in the current ladies’, new posted signs on policies, and closed stalls in both? A lot of places in Europe do this.

  41. tg33*

    I don’t know what your space is like, but I’ve used unisex changing rooms where there are cubicles with doors for changing and cubicles also with doors for showering. The toilet facilities are seperete, but if you remove urinals and just have stalls, then the toilets could be unisex too. What I’m suggesting is that in the long term you could plan to replace the men / women facilities with unisex facilities.

  42. Velomont*

    I have seen, before non-binary was a common consideration, situations where smaller bathrooms/showers/change rooms had on the door an engraved male/female plastic sign with a sliding panel that would cover the gender not in the room at the time. Could a similar “male/female/non-binary” sign be placed on all change rooms?

    1. FridayFriyay*

      This is a great way to ensure that non-binary people who use the facilities face additional harassment and potentially violence.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      I’m not sure I understand. These are all private areas, right? So why would anyone need to know what gender the person in there is?

  43. Temperance*

    If she’s been out for several years while living in your residence, has this happened yet? My hunch is that people might not notice Pat if they’re just doing their business. I have seen a man in the women’s restroom, at a previous job, and it was -extremely- obvious. He was in there to try to peek at women, basically, by hiding in the accessible stall and making weird noises/peeking. (He did this a bunch of times and didn’t get fired; basically, he blamed his disability and his job coach backed it up. Absolute BS.)

    I think if you make it a POLICY (in all caps) and put it on blast, you’re going to invite controversy and trigger the kinds of people who care about such things. And by doing that, you’ll be shining a spotlight on poor Pat, who sounds like they’re just living their life. If you put on the doors that people can use whatever facilities, you’re going to have people looking for anyone who visibly “doesn’t belong”.

    1. Catherine*

      LW here – to answer your question, Pat chose to come out gradually. At first they only used the facility that conformed to their birth gender (male), and then only the facility that applied to the gender they appeared to be most, male when in work clothes, female when dressed up for the evening and so forth. Pat’s use of either facility regardless of how they appear to anyone else is relatively recent. I only bring this up now because I want to be sure we don’t inadvertently cause them or any other guest to feel like they have to hide after this long and no doubt difficult process of becoming their true selves.

  44. NeedRain47*

    Redirect the customers who complain to focus on behavior, not appearance. Is the person acting inappropriately? Harassing you? Doing anything other than existing? If not then mind your business. (I know it’s not as always easy as this, but sometimes it helps.)

  45. Catherine*

    OP here – thank you everyone for your helpful comments! For clarity, the resort is built on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers and since the original buildings were constructed, the area has been designated of historical importance to the local Native American Tribe, so we are under a strict policy of “non-disturbance” to the actual ground. This means new buildings or even major renovations are not an option. The design of the original bathroom/shower buildings makes adding an extra space impossible (no way to add/move plumbing without disturbing the ground), so we’re stuck with the physical structure of the facilities. But the idea of pre-empting comments and confusion with a publicly posted inclusivity policy is definitely a great start!

  46. NerdyKris*

    ” non-gendered bathrooms help more than just non-binary or genderqueer people”

    This right here is very important. Both for the reasons listed and as a cis gendered man with breasts who could be mistaken for a woman if I shaved and wasn’t balding in my middle age, increased awareness of transgender issues means both that I’ve realized many interactions in my past were people trying to find out if I was in the “correct” location for my gender, and that this behavior has become more common recently due to bad actors. Anything that reduces the need for busybodys and bigots to discern which genitals someone has and whether they were born with them is a net gain for everyone.

  47. OfOtherWorlds*

    Would it be possible to turn the room closest to the gym/spa/pool area into a gender neutral restroom and changing room? Take the door off the room, turning it into a itself into a “hallway”, put lockers along the walls, and put a gender neutral restroom sign on what used to be the en suite bathroom. That could get you a private gender neutral toilet, shower, and changing room without making alterations to load bearing parts of the building or any of the plumbing.

  48. Sue Wilson*

    OP I will agree with most of the commentators how much more private space and gender-neutral spaces will help, but I also want to say this: the usual fear response to bathrooms (somewhat manufactured by opportunists) is that people want to be able to trust who they are in the bathroom with. Frankly, this is impossible feat with strict gender enforcement. There is no gender for harassment. Harassment of any sort is not inherently gendered. There are plenty of people within the binary gender model who cannot trust people who have the same basic biology as them. What tends to be gendered is who is allowed to harass. If you create a forward-thinking harassment policy, which is enforced in both in private spaces and otherwise, regardless of gender, if you have a staff who is dedicated to taking it seriously, regardless of gender, and who is dedicated to doing so compassionately (in the case of bigotry of complainant or actual misunderstandings) regardless of gender, then while the complaints from people probably won’t stop, you will have a MUCH better foundation of trust from which you can enforce non-oppressive community standards.

    1. Paris Geller*

      This is a great comment, and so true. It’s also something that is within OP’s purview without having to do any construction at all.

  49. Batgirl*

    Most places do a complete overhaul of existing areas rather than “find extra room”, because safety can actually be improved by making places more accessible and less separate and isolated. The current plan at OP’s resort is to put up a sign which is effectively saying “women, and so by default most of the children, are in here predators” with nothing to stop a dodgy person walking right in. That because staff aren’t going to know if anything is wrong until after they a) get a complaint and b) knock politely to ask to come in. I was actually pretty concerned myself when my local leisure centre announced new unisex facilities, but that was only because the old isolated and unstaffed women’s area, down a lonely corridor, always gave me the creeps, and I imagined it would be laid out like that, but free reign given to random dudes. When it became a reality, it’s instantly obvious that it’s much better. The area is now completely one wide open space between well used zones. There’s lots of footfall and staff are always milling around and using the areas between unisex cubicles and unisex mirror and washbasin areas, to access the pool or locker spaces. This has freed up some space for proper, walled unisex family rooms for those who want extra privacy. The showers are all poolside for people to use while still in swimming costume. Honestly it was probably initially done mostly for families with different gender children and to overcome the problem of different gender staff because it affects more than one type of person.

    1. Cremedelagremlin*

      This sounds really cool and actually makes a lot of sense! I hadn’t thought of it that way, but there is a sense of “safety in visibility” that I hadn’t considered with this kind of layout.

    2. WindmillArms*

      Better, more thoughtful design in bathrooms makes a huge difference. Our default gendered ones cause so many problems!

  50. Jay*

    Do you HAVE to investigate every claim of a “man in a woman’s restroom” or similar? Can you first ask the complaining guest what exactly the “man” was doing? Certainly if there is someone in the bathroom who is harassing others, regardless of their or others’ gender, that should be investigated. But if someone is literally just using the toilet, that shouldn’t be policed or need to be investigated,

    1. Catherine*

      OP here – This is perfect. Looking at the issue from a different perspective make all the difference! This is why I love the AAM community, thank you.

    2. PinkCandyfloss*

      This puts the onus on the staff person to decide or not decide to investigate, which is too much of a liability issue quite frankly: “what are they doing” is subjective. This is not the best response, to challenge a reporting guest, and to give staff an opt-out of doing due diligence. I do not think the resort’s legal team would ever allow this to be formally documented part of the process of handling reports.

    3. Littorally*

      On the other hand, it may be worth it to have someone do a quick check, to make sure that the person just trying to use the bathroom in peace isn’t getting harassed onsite as well as being complained about at the desk. Just a quick — poke head in, is there a scene, if not then peace out.

  51. Michelle Smith*

    As a nonbinary person, I just want to say how much I appreciate that OP is asking these questions and trying to do right by people and how much I appreciate that Alison solicited input from experts on the subject.

  52. Cat in the Hat*

    OP, this is a bit confusing to read because although the showers and stalls themselves are private, it’s not clear whether the changing area is private too. If it’s not, I’d make it a priority to figure out how to make private changing spaces in the locker rooms.

    1. Catherine*

      OP here – There is a small changing area within the curtained off portion of each shower. Some people use it with the curtain closed, some with the curtain open (it’s quite tiny with the curtain closed), and some use the more spacious area outside of the shower. Unfortunately there’s not really any way to expand these changing areas without expanding the building.

      1. quill*

        Is the changing area tiny because you have to shy away from the curtain to keep it closed, or is this a situation where the changing area is just too small and you might need to stick an elbow out the door to get your shirt over your head?

        1. Antilles*

          Can’t speak for OP’s resort, but personally, I’ve gone to a lot of gyms where even if the curtain does stay closed, it’s usually still pretty tight quarters – there’s enough space if you’re careful not to bump the wall, but it’s still tight enough that it’s a lot easier to use the bigger locker room where there are benches to set some stuff on and more space and etc.

          1. UKDancer*

            I agree curtains are useless mostly and move or stick to you.

            My local leisure centre has a brilliant setup where there are a lot of individual gender neutral changing cubicles for the swimming pool. Each one is individual with a locking door and a bench. There are a few larger family ones. The showers are also individual cubicles with locking doors. I think this is perfect and recognises that a lot of people don’t like changing in places where others can see them.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood, CTA*

        Curved curtain rods could buy you space, assuming the area outside them isn’t just a narrow hallway.

  53. doreen*

    I have no problem using single stalls labeled “men” ( and in fact I have never understood why any single stall restroom had a label at all) but I think that’s very different from using a stall in a multiple-user room that also has urinals out in the open. I don’t think it’s impossible to have unisex restrooms/locker rooms , but I suspect for it to work, there will have to be more privacy than is sometimes currently the case. Even in the single-gender locker rooms I have been in, there were always a fair number of people who waited to change in a restroom stall rather than the open area.

  54. Anon Supervisor*

    I’m glad one part of the answer was to reach out to Pat to see if they need any additional accommodation. Even if the answer is no, it’s a great opportunity for management to convey to Pat that they’re open to feedback and ensuring that Pat feels comfortable communicating any concerns they may have down the road. It’s entirely possible that a guest might confront Pat (or be weird and intrusive) without the staff knowing it. It would be awful if Pat felt that they couldn’t lodge their own complaints about treatment from guests.

  55. Ollie*

    I wish I could find the photograph I took for the exact wording but to paraphrase the sign on each bathroom at my local art center says something like “Please assume the person using the bathroom is using the appropriate bathroom for their needs.”

  56. Facepalm*

    “Pat”, btw, is not a kind moniker to use for nonbinary ppl (see Work in Progress where Julia Sweeney is pushed to engage with her character’s legacy and all the mockery it contributed to).

    I second the advice on looking into creating a single room shower/changing space. Some welcoming spaces I’ve been in also put a sign on the gendered bathrooms that essentially states the policy — “please feel free to use the bathroom you feel most comfortable in, and respect others’ right to do the same”

    1. Catherine*

      OP here – I apologize for not knowing “Pat” was unkind, I was sincerely just looking for a neutral name. (As a Canadian I was unfamiliar with the SNL character and had to google it after reading your comment).

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        I hope you are able to come back with an update on how you guys end up handling this issue in the long term. Thanks for being a caring human.

  57. Ollie*

    Found it – Sign on bathrooms of art center – Please assume people are in the right bathroom. They have years of practice and generally get it right.

  58. Empress Matilda*

    I think we’re missing something important here (thanks to Chief Petty Officer Tabby for sparking the idea!). It’s not just the OP and the front desk staff who need scripts and support for this situation. Every single member of the staff should be responsible for creating an inclusive atmosphere, and trained to respond if they see anything that looks like harassment. We’re thinking of just one situation where a guest complains to the front desk – but what if a guest complains to the locker room staff? Or if the guests are harassing Pat directly, instead of bothering to complain about them? Or if the guests are complaining to each other when Pat isn’t around? What if it’s the staff who are doing it, even unintentionally?

    How to respond to complaints is part of it. But you need to be proactive as well – it’s more than just putting up signs and saying “if you see something, say something.” All staff need to be explicitly told two things – they are responsible for creating a welcoming atmosphere to begin with; and they are also responsible for XYZ actions when they see harassment occurring or have it reported to them.

  59. Ginger*

    If there are employee facilities ( most “high end resorts have them) let Pat use them.
    Then no matter which identity Pat feels comfortable that day problem solved

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      This feels incredibly “othering” of Pat. They shouldn’t have to be hidden away like some dirty secret.

    2. Empress Matilda*

      Eh, not really. Employee facilities are not usually accessible to guests at resorts – they’re often pretty far away from the rest of the guests. And they are *always* a lot less clean than the guest facilities! So you’re effectively asking this person to inconvenience themselves for other people’s comfort.

      Also, it’s not scalable. Even if this person is 100% on board with using the staff facilities, what about the next NB person? Or the next ten? At some point, it’s going to be a problem for the staff, if the guests are in their shower room all the time.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      This is a little too close to ‘if you don’t want to use the person’s pronouns just call them by their name instead – that’ll solve the issue’

      It’s an idea that seems to keep everyone happy on paper but in reality is very insulting.

  60. Retired reporter*

    Productive every minute? … I learned the truth stated by OP after I was laid off by a newspaper and started working freelance. I billed for only actual work time – and missed when I used to be paid for those minutes spent consulting HR about vacation time, joining the sports pool posted on the dept. bulletin board, or going to the bathroom.

  61. Retired reporter*

    Productive every minute? … I discovered the truth stated by OP after I was laid off by my newspaper and started working freelance. In conscience, I billed only for time spent doing the relevant work. I missed getting paid for the moments spent here and there consulting HR about vacation time, joining the sports pool posted on the dept. bulletin board, going to the bathroom, etc.

  62. Alexis Rosay*

    One of the amazing things about the awareness of issues with gendered bathroom design is that newer the bathroom designs coming out are so much more comfortable for everyone. Gendered bathrooms were build as cheaply and minimally as possible on the assumption that someone of the same gender seeing you naked or peeing is no big deal. Plenty of people aren’t comfortable with that though. The all-gender restrooms I’ve visited at newer restaurants in my area have wonderfully private stalls—with floor to ceiling doors and none of those creepy cracks in the door— that are just labeled “toilet” or “urinal” with a shared hand washing area. I know rebuilding a bathroom from scratch is expensive and not feasible for all businesses, but if the resort has any kind of renovations planned, strongly consider including a bathroom redesign that would make it easy to include all genders and give all guests plenty of privacy.

  63. Ana Gram*

    Can we all just agree that European style toilet stalls are the ideal? With a floor to ceiling, no weird gap in the door stall, I really don’t care who else is in there. I’ve only dealt with toddlers peeking under (yay for the stalls that have little toddler chairs to corral them!) but I’d love if all bathrooms did floor to ceiling doors for toilets and showers and changing areas.

    1. SenseOrSensibility*

      Absolutely. I was astounded with I was in Europe. Seriously, in the US, it’s like we just… pretend like we can’t see each other sitting on the toilet, sans trousers. I would be 100% fine with sharing a bathroom with any gender if we had those. (Actually, I’m already fine with sharing a bathroom with any gender, although I have to admit, I would initially be afraid if I walked out of the stall and someone I perceived to be a man was there, just because it’s unexpected and I, like most women, have trauma).

  64. Be constructive, not rude*

    Thankfully a lot of the comments are constructive. But I am astounded at the ease with which the terms “TERF” and “transphobe”are being thrown around.

    The OP wants to know how to deal with any potential complaints from more conservative guests. So the fact that some people bring up concerns that these guests may actually have in this scenario is completely legit. These are exactly the kinds of complaints that you might expect the OP will have and people are not allowed to voice them and are being called names.

    The fact that they’re concerns are not everyone’s concerns shouldn’t be a reason for exclusion. Inclusion and understanding goes both ways people!!

  65. TootsNYC*

    I wonder if having more partitions for people to step behind when they’re undressing/dressing/showering would be a good thing.

    i still remember how frustrating it was to go to the beach, change clothes in the women’s locker room, and have people’s young boys running around gawking.
    There were no places with solid partitions, and there were only a very few with shower curtains, but those blew all around. There was no privacy.

    So if the cost of creating a standalone nonbinary bathroom is too much, maybe simply installing some partitions would be useful. Then anyone can use them.

    So creating that sort of shield for people to step behind might be useful.

  66. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    Businesses should take a hint from open-air events that have a row of port-a-potties (some larger accessible ones), with no restrictions on who can use any of them. Some have small sinks inside, others have separate external group sinks. I’ve never seen any users whining “Ew, a man just used it!” or “Ugh, a woman just used it!” or “Eek, I can’t tell who just used it!”

    1. Hey there*

      Certainly having private shower and changing areas would be the best approach, but that requires significant changes to most setups.

  67. Boof*

    Family / nonbinary bathrooms and changing rooms are the best!!!!
    Barring possibly somehow figuring out how to add a nonbinary area, could everything convert to nonbinary? Barring that, I like the idea of posting a sign that everyone is welcome to use the facility of choice.
    If someone complains, staff should probably focus on behavior- if the complain is just that someone who “looks like the wrong gender” is in the area, perhaps stress that that’s ok; but if anyone is behaving inappropriately (making comments, leering, touching, taking pictures, etc) not ok. I guess in theory someone could decide to say, intentionally expose themselves to people then claim it’s an accident but besides the fact that that’s probably extremely rare I imagine there’s gotta be sone way of recognizing and dealing with that in general; maybe ask what policies family changing areas have?

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