College Park, Maryland December 12, 2022. As part of a successful fall Semester at the University of Maryland, English 101 classes were asked to develop position papers on a topic that would create change for common good. To do her part, freshman Marlee Ginyard of Silver Spring, Maryland examined reasons why gender-neutral bathrooms were not well represented in public places including universities and government buildings. She set out to provide strategies to achieve broader public support for gender-neutral restroom legislation.
Ginyard’s research showed that proponents of gender-neutral bathrooms in the US were most likely to present the need for gender-neutral bathrooms as a public health or civil rights issue for transgender or LGBTQ+ community. She found that the majority of the peer reviewed research that exists on the topic looks at the physical and mental health impacts of the lack of ample gender-neutral restrooms on the transgender and gender-nonconforming groups, citing experienced violence and physical harassment (Bovens and Marcoci, 1), sexual assault (McGuire, 43), urinary tract infections and suicidal ideation (Lerner, 261-264) and low psychological wellbeing overall (Crissman, 2036).
While these are all valid reasons to champion the cause, Ginyard found that legislation is more likely to gain broad support if it has a common good element. Ms. Ginyard said, “The research points to a need for consensus on the issue from governments and lawmakers, as well as urgency to back the cause and move legislation through the process.” According to Ms. Ginyard, “It’s only when an issue reaches a critical mass, such as by bringing in other groups that would also benefit from these resources, like the disable or families, that change is accelerated.”
She also noted that concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion are strong drivers of gender-neutral bathrooms for common good. The workplace is a good example of where that conversation is taking shape. According to a December 6, 2019 Society for Human Resource Management article, The Benefits of Offering Gender-Neutral Bathrooms in the Workplace, the author Kylie Ora Lobell explains that installing gender-neutral bathrooms helps workplace communicate its values. Ms.Ginyard noted that this is important as corporations can exert pressure on lawmakers to build common good support for gender-neutral bathroom legislation.
Other mainstream groups that benefit from the ‘for common good’ approach include the disabled and families. Ms.Ginyard stressed, “Everyone knows families are looking for bathrooms that give them privacy and more space for children that are usually in tow, and laws that would require governments to install more gender-neutral bathrooms meets the common good need.” Ginyard went on to cite other common good groups such as the disabled. While the disabled already have handicapped bathroom options, LGBTQ+ communities and the disabled are coming together in some locations in support of common good gender-neutral restroom laws.
According to an April 16, 2021 Baltimore Sun article by Ana Faguy, advocates in the disability and LGBTQ+ communities in Howard County, Maryland came together in support of all sex bathrooms to foster a Howard County bill mandating more gender-neutral bathrooms. The article notes, “After the Howard County Council last week unanimously passed legislation to require certain single-user restrooms in the county to be open to anyone, advocates in the disability and LGBTQ communities who testified in support during the legislation process are now looking forward toward implementation.” The article also suggests that more gender-neutral bathrooms are also good for families or anyone looking for a place where caregiving is needed or that find traditional public restrooms difficult to use.
When asked why this research topic appealed to Ms. Ginyard, she said, “I want to find ways to help people, and I think other people want that too, gender-neutral bathrooms for common good just makes sense. I hope my research might help others make a positive change.”
To interview Marlee Ginyard please contact her at [email protected].
Peer reviewed references:
Boven, Luc and Marcoci, Alexandru. “The gender-neutral bathroom: a new frame and some nudges.” Behavioural Public Policy, July 20, 2020, pp 1-24. Cambridge University Press.
Lerner, Justin Evan. “Having to “Hold It”: Factors That Influence the Avoidance of Using Public Bathrooms among Transgender People.” Health & Social Work, Vol. 46 No. 4, November 2020, pp. 261-264, National Association of Social Workers.
Crissman, Halley. “Youth Perspectives Regarding the Regulation of Bathroom Use by Transgender Individuals.” Journal of Homosexuality. Vol. 67 No. 14, 2020, pp. 2034-2019, Routledge Taylor Francis Group.
McGuire, Jenifer et al. ““I don’t think you belong in here:” The impact of gender segregated bathrooms on the safety, health, and equality of transgender people.” Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Service, Vol.34 No. 1. 2020, pp. 40-62, Routledge Taylor Francis Group.