Editorial: A vote for potty parity

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 5, 2016

If we’re going to talk about bathrooms, let’s come clean. In general, public restrooms are creepy.

The facilities have become a topic of conversation thanks to House Bill 2, signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory to ensure that people stick to the sex on their birth certificate when choosing between the men’s room and the ladies’ room.

Worries about the public restrooms’ security and privacy go back to the baths of ancient Rome. Long before North Carolina politicians focused on transgender users’ plumbing, the people responsible for public restrooms dealt with graffiti, vandalism and other illegal activity.

“Many people feel unsafe in public restrooms,” reports Recreation Management magazine. “They are often viewed as dank, dark, dirty spaces where strangers and trouble lurk— sometimes justifiably so.”

If legislators really want to ensure safety in public facilities, they’ll do more than assign sex. They’ll plunge into improving facility design and technology to everyone’s benefit.

A study commission — which we’re sure will be appointed  — could start by consulting experts with Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH), which asserts  that “toilet availability is a human right and that well-designed sanitation facilities restore health  to our cities, our waters and our soils.”

Phlush and others push for individual bathroom stalls with full doors — or individual bathrooms, period. Large bathrooms with open space above and below the stalls, with occupants partially visible to others, would go the way of the hospital ward.

Places that adopt this design often make the stalls unisex, designating a couple of them for families, such as parents helping their young children, or disabled people with caregivers. This would settle the potty parity issue, allowing men to wait in line just as long as women do.

The semi-private space in the sink area, where strangers meet out of view of the public, would instead be in a common area visible to everyone. Some places put sinks in the individual stalls.

Meanwhile, some conventionally designed facilities have installed security cameras trained on the area where patrons wash and dry their hands.

It turns out public bathrooms are worthy of debate, but not for the reasons lawmakers cited in passing HB2. There is a definite  movement toward individualized “family restrooms,” designed for everyone regardless of gender — or transgender. Wouldn’t that be a relief?