This Inclusive Restroom Sign At The Regent Theatre In New Zealand Embodies What All Bathrooms Should Be
Since trans people face troubling amounts of bullying and discrimination around public bathroom usage, it's important to at least let people choose whether they use the men's room or the ladies' room. But we can do better than that, and an inclusive bathroom sign at the Regent Theatre in New Zealand shows exactly how. Dividing bathrooms into two genders excludes those who may not be comfortable in either one, so one solution is to have just one room that's open to everyone — including aliens from space, in this case.
The Dunedin theater recently posted a photo of its bathroom sign on Facebook with the caption, "New signage for our most accessible loo arrived today — we're pretty delighted with it! #lovewins #artsforall." The sign includes a photo of someone wearing a dress, someone wearing pants, someone with half their body in a dress and half in pants, someone in a wheelchair, and a space alien lounging on his/her/their/zer/whatever side. "Whatever. Just please wash your hands. Restroom," it reads.
"We believe this sign is a positive (if tiny) move that we can make towards an inclusive society, and we don't want that message to be lost," the theater explained in the comments. Other commenters applauded the signage, calling it "refreshing" and "perfect."
In the United States, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) legally requires employers to allow their workers access to bathrooms, which includes letting people use the bathrooms that match their gender identity. "Restricting employees to using only restrooms that are not consistent with their gender identity, or segregating them from other workers by requiring them to use gender-neutral or other specific restrooms, singles those employees out and may make them fear for their physical safety," its guidelines read. "Bathroom restrictions can result in employees avoiding using restrooms entirely while at work, which can lead to potentially serious physical injury or illness."
Ideally, workplaces should also offer gender-neutral bathrooms, according to the OSHA. While its guidelines don't specify why, one good reason is that you can't find a bathroom that matches your gender identity if you identify as non-binary and the only bathrooms are for "men" and "ladies." And for a trans person, choosing which bathroom to use may not be as simple as finding one that matches your gender identity, since some trans people experience backlash and bullying for this. Designating a gender-neutral room removes the need to even make this often tough decision. Similarly, the Human Rights Campaign suggests single-stall rooms to protect people's privacy.
So, on top of being funny, the Regent Theatre's bathroom is in accordance with LGBT advocates' recommendations. It also includes people with disabilities — another group excluded from many bathrooms. And there may not be any space aliens looking to use it yet, but the creature at the bottom does make an important point: Why should we really care who shares our bathrooms, human, or alien, as long as they're not bothering anyone (or spreading germs)?
Keeping trans people out of bathrooms is really just a way to police people's gender. It doesn't improve anyone's safety. The only people whose safety is at stake are gender-nonconforming people in buildings without this inclusive kind of bathroom, so I hope to see more like it.