|"Hmm, which bathroom should I use?"|
There were many things that bothered me about this letter, to the point where if I commented it would have been too long, so I thought I'd write about it in my blog.
First of all, I think it was weird that she pointed out her "beautiful, blond-haired niece," as if someone who is beautiful and has blond hair needs more protection than the rest of us.
Second of all, and this is sort of embarrassing to me but I am going to say it anyways in hopes of helping people empathize with others who might go through this for various reasons. I am not transgender... I am a female and I identify as a female. But my looks could be described as sort of androgynous, especially in my younger years. I rarely wear makeup or do much with my hair, and although I do love to wear bright colors and sometimes dresses or skirts, I am just as likely to be seen in blue jeans and a T-shirt or hoodie. At least two times, back when I was in my late teens and early twenties, someone stopped me in a women's washroom to tell me, "This is the women's room." Both times were really embarrassing, to have to say, "I am a woman," and have them either turn red and apologize, or just look at you doubtfully. And you have to wonder, were they saying it because they really thought I was a boy, or were they saying it because they thought I looked unfeminine and wanted to mock me? Having been in that position, I understand how it is important for people to be able to use the bathroom they feel comfortable in, without being questioned about it.
Also, what public washrooms are all of these people using, that they feel like they're in grave danger of someone following them in? At TARGET? When I use the women's washroom at Target or another public place, here's what happens... I go into the stall, lock it behind me, go potty, come out, wash my hands, and leave the washroom. Nothing terribly interesting happens in there.
(On the other hand, one time when my aunt and I were in a Best Buy in Seattle and we asked to use the washroom, we were told that the washrooms were no longer open to customers, because they'd been having problems with people using drugs in there. So, I guess that happens... but I'm pretty sure that is improper use of a public washroom no matter what gender you are.)
If I thought that someone was following me into a washroom, or if someone appeared to be watching me too closely... maybe peeking through the cracks of the stall or something... I would leave and tell someone.
I also would not be eager to use a public washroom that doesn't seem safe. The washrooms at Target are usually right in front of the store, near the employee break room and/or the service desk. I feel pretty safe using it. But if I thought that a washroom seemed questionable... for instance, at an empty rest stop along the highway at three in the morning... I probably would not use it. I would never think, "Well, the sign on this washroom says WOMEN, so obviously no creepy people will be coming in here." That would be crazy. Anything could happen in there.
Basically, here is what I think. There is no way to neatly categorize people. There is not a dividing line. You cannot say, "All women are safe to be around, and all men are questionable." You can't say, "This is one hundred percent right, and that is one hundred percent wrong." You can't say, "By putting THIS sign up, I will be protecting myself and others from bad things happening."
Everyone has responsibilities in life. Target and other stores have the responsibility to keep their public washrooms as safe as possible, by keeping them well-lit, keeping them in well-populated areas, even posting security guards in there if need be. Individuals have the responsibility to use the washrooms properly, by going in there to use the toilets or wash up, and not doing other things in there such as using drugs or assaulting others. Also, individuals have the responsibility to look out for themselves, by keeping their eyes open and not going into situations... such as the creepy washroom in the empty rest stop in the middle of the night... that they think might not be safe, or by reporting someone who might be doing questionable things in the washroom. And if you are truly afraid of using the Target washroom because a man might waltz in behind you, then it is your responsibility to find another washroom to use.
That is all I have to say about that. What do you think?