Play it right: use the "wrong" bathrooms, even when you're stone cold sober

By Ola Switala

My name is Ola, and I’ve been using the “wrong” bathrooms at Macalester for about 2 years now. As Residential Life sees to the gendering of bathrooms this semester, I continue to question why certain people desire the segregation of residential restrooms.From the moment that they discover their genitals, many of the westernized world’s children understand that the bathrooms in their houses are not inherently gendered. At home, bathroom doors act as veils of privacy, allowing both visitors from all ends of the gender continuum to sit upon a single private throne. Public bathroom doors segregate entrants by gender. The possible danger of hearing the opposite sex tinkle ensures that bathroom doors must designate who may and may not enter and shower, defecate or even brush their teeth in the same space.

An important question to ask is whether Macalester’s residential bathrooms should be considered private or public. The first and second-year dorms are segregated by either single-sex floors with one single-sex bathroom (Doty) or coeducational dorm floors featuring two sex-specific bathrooms (Dupre and Turck).

As juniors and seniors, students discover that upper-class housing is gender-open. Gender-open housing allows a mixed group of male and female students to occupy a multi-room, suite-style living space, as long as no two members of the opposite sex share the same room (students often subvert this policy). The suites in George Draper Dayton (GDD), Kirk Hall and Grand Cambridge Apartments (GCA) simulate mini-private residences, some equipped with personal kitchens, and others equipped with personal bathrooms. Students in GCA and GDD can choose their suites’ bathroom gender policy.

In spite of these freedoms, this year’s Kirk Hall residents are seeing the advent of a hypocritical reversal in upper class dorm bathroom policy. At last weeks’ floor meetings, Kirk residents were told that the bathrooms that were gender-open upon their arrival on Sept. 1 were now gendered. The arrival of new signs in the coming week will officially re-segregate the restrooms. The logical dissonance that justifies single sex bathrooms in a building with gender-open housing is only the start of the trouble.

What of the students that choose to live in Kirk expressly because of its gender-open environment? How can Macalester students continue challenging divisive, discriminatory binaries if they are not mature enough to handle a member of the opposite sex wrapped in a modest towel, or worse yet, on the shitter?

Residential Life assumes that gender-closed bathrooms are necessary for a number of reasons, including “safety.” I’m not sure why this exactly is the case, some point to the inappropriately disposed bleeding tampon upon the floor as the offender, others bemoan the gleeful appearance of a naked butt disclosed by doors left carelessly open by men urinating. Another student, a friend of mine from the class of 2007, might point to the night that a student grabbed her as she stepped out of the shower in a towel. Are we to assume that therefore all male Macalester are potential sexual harassers and all females potential victims?

Women and men at Macalester, I’ve learned, regardless of their gender, dare to use bathrooms that prohibit entry to members of their sex. They enter the “wrong” bathroom frequently to check their appearance, vomit or even to have sex with their partner of the designated sex within the shower. As some drunken students would agree, one’s sex matters little during moments when they’re too intoxicated to decode an abstract drawing outside of a door for indications of a triangular skirt or two rectangular legs dangling from beneath its torso. Enough men, women and genderqueers have used the world as their toilet in my presence (myself notwithstanding) for me to merit that no amount of signage can keep any space from potentially becoming someone’s personal potty.

I’m not sure if the people who demand gendered bathrooms in Kirk were uncomfortable with diversity in their bathroom, immature or simply hateful, but I’d sure like to see them defend their opinions.

I miss gender-open bathrooms, and I despise the feeling that I “don’t belong” in the bathroom two feet from my room because it has been christened a “men’s room” simply because of my worrisome vagina.