Dear Father Tony,
You should talk about the benefits of unisex public bathrooms for all people and I mean ALL men, women and trans. They would be much safer for everybody except maybe George Michael.
OK. I'll open the can of worms you're handing me.
First off, I'm guessing Mr. Michaels' affection for public restrooms is on the wane. (I've already written about my conviction that many men naturally like to have plein air public sex on the fly and that there ought to be "theme-park-style" facilities for it that would eliminate the usage of public restrooms for that activity. Let's avoid a rehash of that.)
I also watched Antonia D'orsay's recent first Bilerico video in which she talks about modesty in terms of public bathrooms. (Haven't yet gotten to the second two.) I'd like to frame my response with thoughts about what is gained or lost if all public bathrooms become unisex, and more importantly, whether modesty is actually a virtue.
Here is the Merriam-Webster definition of modesty:
1 : freedom from conceit or vanity?
2 : propriety in dress, speech, or conduct
For our purposes, the second definition is key. Would universally accessible public bathrooms containing sinks, urinals, baby-changing boards and stalls result in impropriety in dress, speech or action?
With very little redesign, they would not.
I think that many people confuse modesty with privacy.
As things stand today, most public bathrooms do not afford much privacy. Long rows of urinals absolutely invite mutual inspection of exposed penises even when there is no sexual interest. The doors on stalls always contain gaps on both the hinge and latch sides that allow passing but clear views of the seated occupants. The sounds of urination and defecation are amplified by tile surfaces that rival the clear acoustics of concert halls and ancient stone amphitheaters.
No, privacy is not what will be lost. What will be lost is the illusion of sanctuary that many people associate with entering a public or private multi-person bathroom restricted to their own sex.
What will be lost is a feeling of seclusion because the redesign of such spaces would have to eliminate their appeal as places for predators to victimize people. Consider the updated design of stairwells in multilevel parking garages. The newer ones are often walled with glass to increase the visibility and the safety of the user. Redesigned public bathrooms should follow suit. The opacity of stalls should not be eliminated but I see no reason why the exterior walls of public restrooms have to be floor to ceiling concrete or brick or masonry or wood. Clear panels to keep out inclement weather and to contain unsavory odors ought to be sufficient. And as an interim measure for those who feel they will be menaced in a public bathroom thrown open to all sexes and orientations, let there be emergency buttons in all the stalls that would sound a loud alarm and call a policeman. I would predict that those buzzers would give comfort but be very rarely pressed.
I think we should also keep in mind that today, any one of us could don the appropriate disguise that would allow us to enter a bathroom labeled for our opposites. It is entirely silly to presume that the icon on the bathroom door guarantees us protection from emptying our bladders or viscera shoulder to shoulder and thigh to thigh with folks who are supposed to stay out.
If modesty is propriety, what is impropriety? That same Merriam-Webster defines it as an "indecorous act or remark". Not very specific. I think the definition ought to be expanded to include the fact that among the like-minded an act that has propriety might in "mixed company" have impropriety. I'll give you an example. I have been in public venues in which I had sex in the very close company of men, women and the transgendered. No impropriety was involved because everyone present was an informed and consenting participant or observer. I have also been to Christmas parties in private homes in the course of which some guests under the influence of eggnog and mistletoe have acted out sexually in a way that shocked and offended some of the other guests. Those latter occasions ought probably to be classified under impropriety.
I do not think that those who fear opening up public restrooms to all variety of humans have any real basis for their fear. I do not think that unbridled and frenzied nudity and bacchanalian sex will be the result. It's not like we are all going to start playing Twister in airport conveniences.
So, Sherman, I've just written 725 words on a subject that I consider downright ridiculous. I really need to go to the bathroom, but in honor of your question, I'll keep the door open.