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I first encountered a co-ed bathroom in 2000, during my UMass-Amherst orientation, and it really creeped me out. I didn’t want to be in that bathroom (which of course included showers, being a university dorm) when there were men there. I certainly don’t believe all men are rapists and perverts, but rather that I just don’t feel comfortable being in the same personal space as men. I’ve sometimes used a single-room male bathroom when the women’s room was in use and it was an emergency, but I’ve never gone into a multi-stall men’s room that I can remember.
These “bathroom bills” being denounced as so “transphobic” and “transmisogynistic” are actually very sensible, and about protecting women’s safe spaces. Women’s bathrooms and locker rooms are also traditionally recognized as safe spaces for children of both sexes. I certainly don’t have a problem with a little boy going with his mother or older sister into the women’s locker room or bathroom. It’s sure safer than making him go to the men’s room by himself.
Here’s a radical solution: Use family bathrooms or other co-ed options! Gender might be a social construct, but that doesn’t mean most women and men are socialized the same. I can’t deny most men are more visually stimulated than women.
There are still far too many rapes in this world, and women have been socialized to be wary of being alone with a strange man or a guy they don’t know very well. Women are taught to be careful walking alone at night, even if it’s just in a parking garage. I’ve always changed in private or by maneuvering clothes on and off under other clothes, even when it’s only other women and girls; if I were forced to share private space with a man, I’d feel extremely unsafe and threatened. When I worked as a camp counselor, I would’ve been even angrier if some grown man had walked around naked in front of my dear little campers in the JCC locker room!
Many of the men trying to get access to women’s bathrooms are autogynephiles, and have been exposed as having criminal pasts (including as sex offenders). Some of them even start demanding access as soon as they declare themselves trans, like “Lila” Perry. I completely side with the girls who knew him as male for 17 years. This guy gives off such a creepy, perverted vibe, not least in the picture where his sex organs are clearly on display under his skirt.
These men also shut down Michfest, a 40-year-old women’s music festival, and gained entry into historic women’s schools, battered women’s shelters, women’s homeless shelters, women’s Olympic sports, and women’s prisons. Aren’t there enough co-ed and men’s-only spaces and places in the world? Must they take over the relative few women’s-only spaces? Even Girl Scouts now allows biological boys to join.
I would never, ever, ever try to barge into a special space meant only for members of a group I don’t belong to, like lesbians, traditional-aged university students, Catholics, African-Americans, or senior citizens.
While I feel comfortable at both Conservative and Orthodox services, I’ve really grown to prefer davening behind a mechitza, with only other women. There’s just such a special energy and dynamic which comes from a women’s-only space, this secret little world the men don’t have access to. I’d feel really violated if a man were in the women’s section. It would ruin my davening. The laws of yichud also say an unrelated woman and man can’t be alone in an enclosed space without a kosher chaperone.
Some of these zealots have cowed people into replacing the word “woman” with “person” when talking about pregnancy and birth. Biological reality hurts their feelings.
I’m not uniformly opposed to being alone with a man, in spite of trying to follow the laws of yichud the best I can. My navel was pierced by a man, with the door closed, and I’ve come to live with my roommate frequently bringing her boyfriend over. But that’s a controlled, specific setting. It’s not a private, personal setting meant only for women and small children.