How do actual trans folks feel about cutesy "all-gender restroom" signs?
November 6, 2019 8:09 AM   Subscribe

Trans, non-binary, and genderqueer folks! How do you feel about the cutesy "whatever, just wash your hands" all-gender public restroom signs? The ones that typically feature fanciful creatures such as fairies and satyrs, unicorns and dragons, aliens and mermaids, or robots and (more) aliens?

I have a reason for asking, but I want to hear from you. Thanks for any thoughts you feel inclined to share.
posted by escape from the potato planet to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Answers to a similar question here might yield insights.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:12 AM on November 6, 2019 [7 favorites]


Genderqueer and hate them. I’m not fictional, nor am I some kind of hybrid. I’m just a person, and bathrooms should be for people.

I realize they come from a whimsical, friendly intention, but they’re just kind of demeaning.
posted by hollyholly at 8:16 AM on November 6, 2019 [35 favorites]


I hate them:

1. The sign invites comment and I don't want to hear the thoughts of every random, poorly-informed cis person on this topic,

2. I don't appreciate being likened to a mythical being,

3. They make it hard for people who can't read or who have a hard time with English or interpreting signs generally to figure out where the restroom is.

Just put a picture of a toilet on there, dang.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:18 AM on November 6, 2019 [38 favorites]


I am (i think) a cis woman (questioning nonbinary) who has trans and/or non-binary friends - IMO, (and the opinions of the friends I have talked to about this) restroom signs that say "all gender" and leave it at that are fine, the "WELL WHATEVER YOU ARE, JUST WASH YOUR HANDS" or fanatical creature signs are dismissive and degrading.

As hollyholly said, this is an issue of impact vs. intent.
posted by nuclear_soup at 8:19 AM on November 6, 2019 [10 favorites]


Well, when someone puts up a sign divided in two showing a unicorn and a dragon, the culturally implied read is that the unicorn and the dragon are metaphors for two genders, and the natural read is that women are unicorns and men are dragons. There's all kinds of counter-readings but they're counter-readings ("women are dragons!" "tidy people are unicorns!" "fire signs and water signs only in this bathroom!").

I like signs that say in words "all gender bathroom". If you absolutely must use an image in addition to words, I prefer the standard people-with-circle-heads kind.

Also, anything that suggests that the opinion of the business is what's at issue isn't ideal, IMO. I don't care whether you don't care about it or whether you are secretly seething; I care how I'm treated. The whole "oh, we don't care" thing somehow seems to suggest that "caring about gender" is a personal choice rather than a matter of social policy.

I do appreciate that people think of it and it doesn't make me upset or anything, but it's not my first choice.

If people want whimsical signs, can they make a whimsical illustration of like ten different dragons and use it as the background to the text? "We're all dragons here" is different from "whether you're a fairy princess or a buff dragon, you're welcome in this bathroom!" I feel like sometimes what's going on is that people want a fun sign with dragons or robots or aliens and you can have both a fun sign and a clear, inclusive message.
posted by Frowner at 8:21 AM on November 6, 2019 [15 favorites]


[ picture of toilet ]
WASHROOM
ALL GENDER

That's it, that's the sign. Or should be.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:26 AM on November 6, 2019 [28 favorites]


My partner is trans and feels much the same as the posters above. If you want fun decor just decorate the entire bathroom with whimsical creatures. But the sign itself should just say "bathroom" or something similar.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:26 AM on November 6, 2019 [5 favorites]


I appreciate that, in most cases, at least the folks responsible are trying.

That said, I find them cutesy and annoying and would prefer that they just go away.
posted by Tabitha Someday at 8:26 AM on November 6, 2019 [1 favorite]


Oh I will also say -- trans and non-binary folx I have talked to about this have shared that what is MOST useful in terms of restroom signage is to have information about what facilities are available inside the restroom. Urinals, toilets, stalls, etc. No need to gender those facilities.

(As with most things related to inclusion and accessibility, this information end up being useful for everyone regardless of gender identity and increases people's comfort, ease of use, etc.)
posted by nuclear_soup at 8:32 AM on November 6, 2019 [14 favorites]


If it's a whimsical place where there are also jokey names on the menus, then I don't mind something like "whatever, just wash your hands". I'm really, really not into the mythical creature thing, which just seems like the gender equivalent of "I don't care if you're black, white, or green with polka dots!" I mean, I'll still take that as a sign of safety over separated facilities, but as mentioned above, my strong preference is for some indication of what equipment is inside, whether it's a group bathroom or single-use, and that it's for everyone.
posted by northernish at 8:36 AM on November 6, 2019 [7 favorites]


Nonbinary trans person here agreeing with the others who dislike the mythical and cutesy words/ pictures/ symbols. We are not imaginary creatures (see also: my dislike of the Gender Unicorn) and the signs can be really confusing.

I like the ones that say all gender/ gender neutral in words and symbols that aren't the usual pants/ skirt stick figures (for example, this one shows a toilet and hand washing at a sink). I think words and symbols (as well as Braille) should both be necessary for inclusive access.

When traveling through airports, I look for the single user bathrooms that are usually labeled "family."
posted by wicked_sassy at 8:37 AM on November 6, 2019 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I mean, for perspective:

Totally binary bathroom signs with no trans/NB-inclusive message — 100% shitty
Goofy "mermaids and cyborgs welcome" signs — 5% shitty
"All gender restroom" sign — 0% shitty

Like I will absolutely roll my eyes at the cutesy sign, but it is so much better than being left to worry.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:37 AM on November 6, 2019 [5 favorites]


Genderqueer/non-binary/questioning AMAB here. I don't hate them, but I much prefer this solution.
posted by SansPoint at 8:39 AM on November 6, 2019 [6 favorites]


here's a thought: a sign that reads "Everyone's Bathroom."
Thus, there's no reason to even mention "gender."
posted by BostonTerrier at 9:06 AM on November 6, 2019 [5 favorites]


As a person who is specifically worried about being excluded from a bathroom based on my gender, I would strongly prefer a sign that directly addresses gender. It's not an irrelevant detail and it's not a dirty word.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:12 AM on November 6, 2019 [7 favorites]


I would like to react to the facilities description; if there's door signs that just say "1 urinal, one toilet" and another that says "2 toilets" then there is a very strong implication to the norms that the urinal room is for MANS, because penises are the typical users of urinals.

I would prefer the washrooms specifically state, as a matter of clarifying venue policy, that washrooms are not segregated. Not to say that a facilities list is bad, but it shouldn't be all there is.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:16 AM on November 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


how do trans people feel about the ones labeled for self identified gender?
posted by brujita at 9:23 AM on November 6, 2019


Don't like them. When I'm trying to brave and figure out public restrooms is not when I want a business to be clever, just to have clear information. I wouldn't understand the signs you linked and would not at all be comfortable assuming it was meant to be a unisex bathroom.

Plus, I agree with this: Also, anything that suggests that the opinion of the business is what's at issue isn't ideal, IMO.
posted by gaybobbie at 9:26 AM on November 6, 2019


Oh I will also say -- trans and non-binary folx I have talked to about this have shared that what is MOST useful in terms of restroom signage is to have information about what facilities are available inside the restroom. Urinals, toilets, stalls, etc. No need to gender those facilities.

Yes, NYU does this best that I've seen at Kimmel with signage that indicates whether toilets, urinals or both are available. In addition they have a fairly comprehensive guide, which also includes hours & handicap accessibility to meet additional needs.
posted by TravellingCari at 10:03 AM on November 6, 2019 [1 favorite]


Nonbinary/agender person, echoing everyone who's said these are bad and the "whatever" language in particular is demeaning. I agree with Frowner on the reasoning: The whole "oh, we don't care" thing somehow seems to suggest that "caring about gender" is a personal choice rather than a matter of social policy. Nonbinary people are constantly told that our gender identities are about being "special snowflakes" who want to stand out from the crowd and be quirky and fun, rather than something core to who we are. I think there is quite a similar effect for binary trans people though I can't speak to it from experience.

Just "restroom" or "WC" on the door is fine, "all-gender restroom" or "unisex restroom" if there's likely to be any confusion. The toilet icon is good too.

I have seen unisex bathrooms with art on the doors, including art of animals, but the point where it edges into bad territory is if 1) the design is clearly meant to mimic or mock an informational sign like the ones in the OP, 2) the design evokes gender stereotypes like if the ostensibly-neutral bathrooms consist of one with a pink door and one with a blue door.
posted by capricorn at 11:30 AM on November 6, 2019 [2 favorites]


I would rather a bathroom door signal whether it's single-stall or not. I'd much rather center which bathroom gives me the freedom from interacting with another human at all. (specifically, if i need to readjust my binder, I don't want anyone of any gender looking at me.)
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 11:58 AM on November 6, 2019 [5 favorites]


(also seconding the feelings above about not being a fucking mythical creature. like, I AM NOT MADE UP is literally a fight nonbinary folks already have every day.)
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 11:59 AM on November 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


Even within binary gender, lots of people (and women in particular) roll their eyes at the dress on the little bathroom icon, but it's a lot worse when somebody skips the recognizable icon and deliberately chooses some kind of trope that they feel represents men and women. If you go to create new symbols instead of using established international standards, you had better be sure it doesn't communicate something you don't intend, because everybody is going to construe that as being from you, not just that it's a general social issue. If you're going to use images that represent gender at all, much as I don't love it, I'd prefer the half-dress-half-not icon if you can't figure out something that doesn't have Unfortunate Implications.
posted by Sequence at 12:56 PM on November 6, 2019


I'm on the record in the previous question as disliking them. It's looking for ally cookies* and falling flat on your face while doing it. I am a pretty darn cynical trans person at this point and if you do pretty much anything to signal you "care" about me that is visible to cis people, I will. not. trust. you.

And don't pretend you "don't care" about my gender. 1) I care deeply about my transness and you're telling me I shouldn't. 2) I have a lifetime of experience telling me you're very likely lying.

If you're going to use images that represent gender at all, much as I don't love it, I'd prefer the half-dress-half-not icon if you can't figure out something that doesn't have Unfortunate Implications.

I'd honestly prefer just the "man" and "woman" icon next to each other, as we'd get before people pretended to care about trans people. Because the half-dress/half-not icon is itself rife with Unfortunate Implications. But given that signage with a toilet icon is readily available in the US, you don't need people at all. For the love of god not the transgender symbol ones though.

And put tampons and pads in your gender neutral bathroom.

*Which is a phrase I think came from Mia McKenzie, but this is the closest article I can find at the moment.
posted by hoyland at 2:52 PM on November 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


The restrooms and locker rooms at my workplace simply say that people are welcome to use whatever facilities match their gender identity or expression. These signs were developed with input from our LGBTQI colleagues.
posted by brookeb at 10:02 PM on November 6, 2019


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