What if?: Gender-neutral bathrooms

By Hilary Ribons, Staff Writer
@hilaryalexisr

Word has it that Boston University has approved gender-neutral housing.  While everyone’s living preference is different, I think we can all agree on the one aspect of co-ed living that is undoubtedly awkward.

Co-ed bathrooms. And with gender-neutral housing approved, this could be the next step. Emerson College, the University of Vermont, Tufts University and Wheaton College are among the few local schools that have in recent years created the bathrooms to accommodate transgender students.

I am a transfer student, and at my previous college, we had co-ed bathrooms. In fact, starting school at BU marks  my first time since I left home that I have not had a co-ed bathroom.

My freshman year was the hardest to adjust to. There were a few isolated incidents that were just plain uncomfortable, aside from the few weeks it took me to get to know my floor well enough to nonchalantly brush my teeth and wash my face alongside about four male floormates.

At my previous institution, the showers were stalls that extended downward from the ceiling to about half a foot above the floor. After the initial shock of showering next to men a few times, I got over it.

But then a mystery guy tried to strike up a conversation with me from the neighboring shower stall. He didn’t know who I was and could only see my feet. This really is a situation I’ll never forget. It probably would’ve even been bizarre for a girl to do, but it was totally uncalled and definitely unexpected in this situation.

The bathroom stall situation was too weird for me, too. There were three bathroom stalls on that floor, all in a row. Call me crazy, but it became my goal to wait until all three were empty to use any of them. My roommate and I literally avoided using the bathroom on our floor.

There were a few times when I stumbled in on my male floormate. And though I never really got to know him, I do know that he always forgot to close the door to the bathroom stall. Maybe he didn’t feel like it, but in a bathroom shared by both males and females, this was plain weird.

The next year I was lucky enough to live in a house (also co-ed) where the bathrooms were singular and not at all like the communal dormitory bathroom. This situation was decidedly less awkward.

Yet the the proverbial toilet seat war lived on. Up or down? Which is the right way?

And then I lived with two boys over the summer. Because our bathroom was a normal, one-room type deal, it really wasn’t uncomfortable at all. Maybe it was the type guys that made the situation okay. Maybe it was not having to use stalls that really made all the difference. Or maybe if I hadn’t experienced the gender-neutral dorms my freshman year, I wouldn’t have been as nonchalant about sharing an apartment with two guys. Either way, this type of gender-neutral living arrangement is an adjustment. Soon it will be up to you to decide if it’s something you’d enjoy or a foreign territory you’d rather steer clear from.

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