"Peeing on Campus": Doing Non-Binary Gender in "Neutral" Bathrooms

Authors: Phoebe Clark*, University of Washington
Topics: Cultural Geography
Keywords: Gender, public space, queer, everyday, transgender, non-binary
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In recent years, both single user and multi-stall “gender neutral”, “gender inclusive” and “all gender” bathrooms have been presented and implemented as a solution to the so-called “bathroom question” that is raised by the increasingly visible discomforts surrounding trans peoples’ use of “men’s” and “women’s” public restroom facilities. These “neutral” and “inclusive” bathrooms have emerged as a compromise between expressed safety concerns of both cisgender and transgender people. Because of their professed gender neutrality these bathrooms also accommodate people whose genders diverge from the categories “ladies” and “gentlemen”. In this way, the gendered imaginary of neutral bathrooms opens the possibility of differently gendered bathroom users. As such, “gender neutral” bathrooms present a spatialized challenge to dominant understandings of gender as a binary categorization system. Because of this political function - borne out of their existence in relation to a tradition of binary “sex segregated” public bathroom facilities - “gender neutral” bathrooms are sites in which gender is nonetheless salient. This project uses auto-ethnographic methodology to explore how I, non-binary scholar use and experience “gender neutral” bathrooms on campus. By attending to embodiment, and governmentality, I aim to reach a greater understanding of how these public spaces enable and constrain how I embody and “do” gender in my everyday life on campus.

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