In his latest Letter to America, Australian Roger Pugh weighs in on the public bathroom debate in the U.S.
We’re intrigued down here by the convenience controversy that’s raging up there.
I understand how disconcerting it can be for men patronizing a gender-dedicated public facility to be suddenly confronted by someone of any gender in female attire and indeed how positively alarming it can be for women when exactly the opposite happens.
From personal experience, I know how strangely discomfiting it can be in such circumstances even to stand next to a Scotsman in a kilt.
So it’s high time that society came to grips with the vital issue of whether public toilet usage should be governed by gender or dress.
The French used to have the answer. Public toilets in Paris were overseen by a lady in a nurse’s uniform who assigned cubicles and handed out towels. It mattered not whether you were male, female, straight, gay, trans, or bi, everyone was treated in exactly the same way.
You would have to guess that over time the Paris local authority judged that paying ladies to oversee toilets was an outdated and needless extravagance. However, no subsequent arrangement has matched it in providing all patron sectors with a universally satisfactory standard of service.
There seems to be a growing body of opinion that considers the answer to the current dilemma lies in providing a specialist public facility for each sector of the community. However, in the event of an emergency, the French model offers more certainty to patrons who are not familiar with local public toilet locations and could be forced to search frantically ’round five or six before finding the appropriate one.
Some progress is being made towards solving current toilet intransigence through the development of unisex toilets and it seems certain that it is only a matter of time before ways will be found to make public toilets redundant through disruptive measures online and possibly even through mobiles.
We can only hope that someone of the wisdom and caliber of Martin Luther King, Jr. will step up to lead America through this latest segregation issue to a state of less intemperance over public toilets.
Keep calm and go at home as much as possible.