New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer is a long-term ex­pa­tri­ate, a rest­less trav­eller, an ob­server of the hu­man con­di­tion, and un­apolo­get­i­cally in­sub­or­di­nate

they de­serve. True sto­ries in­ter­weave with ur­ban leg­ends of peo­ple get­ting conned, chil­dren be­ing ab­ducted and late night vis­i­tors find­ing them­selves locked in un­til the next morn­ing. Such anec­dotes are cov­ered in the press with as­ton­ish­ing reg­u­lar­ity. But, the dilemma of the lin­guis­ti­cally in­apt tourist who doesn’t know which com­fort sta­tion to choose and the dis­tress of the mother of a lit­tle boy who clearly shouldn’t be left alone “in there” is al­ways very real.

I don’t like pub­lic bath­rooms any bet­ter than the next per­son, but I do have to ad­mit that I have had my fair share of in­ter­est­ing, in­trigu­ing and, on oc­ca­sion, even en­ter­tain­ing en­coun­ters while queu­ing. I have met long-for­got­ten rel­a­tives who hadn’t men­tion they were in town. I have made new friends while con­sid­er­ing some peo­ple’s ev­i­dent lack of good man­ners. And I have shared a chuckle and an awk­ward stare as well.

So, I plead for gen­der-neu­tral wash­rooms. The ben­e­fits are count­less. For ex­am­ple, it would erad­i­cate at least one in­stance of great gen­der-based favouritism in the world. It would make potty breaks a lot less trau­matic for moth­ers with lit­tle lads and fa­thers with wee princesses. It would greatly help for­eign­ers as well as an­drog­y­nous-look­ing peo­ple to save face, not a task to be un­der­es­ti­mated in the age of man-buns and ladies pantsuits. It would cur­tail some own­ers’ vex­ing sense of hu­mour as far as creative sig­nage goes. It would de­bunk the ca­nards of men’s su­pe­rior abil­ity to aim at an in­tended tar­get. In fact, I’m not sure this will pass as a ben­e­fit. And on a more se­ri­ous note, its ob­vi­ous space ef­fi­ciency could al­low even small venues to of­fer their pa­trons the lux­ury of an in-house loo.

This idea seems too pro­gres­sive for com­fort? I bet that’s how many felt when pub­lic schools be­came in­clu­sive. Or when afore­men­tioned rail­road coaches, li­braries and de­part­ment stores ended their seg­re­gat­ing ten­den­cies. And come to think of it, no­body seems too both­ered by unisex lava­to­ries on air­planes ei­ther.

Let me leave you with this lit­tle jewel to pon­der over the week­end: I re­cently stum­bled upon a so­cial me­dia post il­lus­trat­ing an es­tab­lish­ment where (mostly) young­sters of both sexes hap­pily pee to­gether — cour­tesy of your lo­cal, and very pub­lic, swim­ming pool!

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