Why There Are So Many Single Occupant Bathrooms Nowadays July 11, 2017

A California law went into effect saying that single occupant bathrooms need to be mixed gender.  Now in my office we have two of those upstairs and two multi-occupant bathrooms [with showers] downstairs.   Changing the downstairs bathrooms to mixed gender would create a cultural earthquake in our office and make almost everyone very uncomfortable, but I have no real problem with the upstairs ones.  The women might, because they might think men make a mess of things [if you know what I mean] and they are welcome to organize a protest if they like.  Besides, I think a protest for traditional gender roles will, like claims of sexual harassment, be more effective if it’s led by women.

But why are there so many single occupant bathrooms nowadays in the first place?  Why so many where you open the door and the ‘throne’ is in the open space?  Well, that goes back to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a time when no one had ever heard of transgender or cisgender or anything like that.  [Actually that was not quite true:  We had Christine Jorgensen and Jan Morris, but they did not insist on our accepting them as female until after they had been ‘fixed.’  The idea that we should accept your gender of choice prior to being ‘fixed’ is a very new one.]

Anyhow, in the days before the Americans with Disabilities Act, a smaller bathroom often consisted of an enclosure containing one toilet and a larger space outside with the urinal, the sink, etc.  [I cannot speak to ladies’ rooms except that the urinals were lacking, so I don’t know how this story affects them.]  Well, what the Americans with Disabilities Act decreed, in 1990, was that at least one of the toilet enclosures in any bathroom needed to be large enough to accommodate a wheelchair, and where there was only one such enclosure, it needed to be large enough to accommodate a wheelchair.  Quite a few smaller bathrooms were too small to accommodate expanding the toilet enclosure to the required size.  So the toilet fence, in compliance with the law, came down altogether, and the ‘throne’ sat openly in the middle of the room.  Since most of us don’t like to use the bathroom when someone is on the ‘throne’ in the same space, these bathrooms became the single occupant bathrooms we know today.  And, they just happened to be a lot easier to make gender neutral than the other bathrooms.

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