Segregation

A few weeks ago I was on the main campus of Stockholm University to pick up some stuff, and I needed a bathroom. I wandered the long corridors that link one of the buildings up there, poking my head around corners and down hallways. Finally, in a large sitting area next to the 7-Eleven in the last building, I saw a sign for a toilet: WC, behind a mesh metal half wall.

I followed a young man, obviously a student, behind the partition and through a doorway into a short hallway. But he turned around without going in one of the doors there, and so I assumed the bathrooms were occupied. Maybe there were only three on that side, little tiny closet bathrooms like the ones at the airport. So I followed him across the sitting room to another door with a sign saying WC above it.

Once through that door, one faces a bank of regular toilet stalls, with two walls of sinks on opposite sides of the room — which I quickly surmised were left in place when the bathroom was renovated to take any and all genders. The young man turned right and took the last stall on the right, and I went to the last one on the far left. Weirdly (thankfully?), he was talking on the phone the whole time, so I figured he wasn’t listening to me urinate, which made the whole thing much easier.

How funny! The last time I was in an open-stall gender neutral bathroom was possibly over 20 years ago when I was in college, and my dorm had a men’s, women’s and anybody’s bathroom on every floor, with open toilet *and* shower stalls. One could look at the naked feet next to you showering and wonder whose they were, let alone if they were a man’s or a woman’s. That was good ol’ progressive Minnesota in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, I have gotten used to the privacy of having my own WC, my own little water closet, whether at the airport, the gym, at work, wherever I go in Sweden, with closed walls and very little interaction with another human. Possibly a waste of resources. But also: Super humane.

And perhaps the solution to the parts of my country, the US, that are freaking out about transgendered people using probably any bathroom at all. Which brings me to the topic I don’t want to discuss, which is the upcoming electing on Tuesday (already under way really and with results to be finalized on Tuesday night in the US). I’m trying not to think about it all. But the outcome will mean a lot for bathroom etiquette in the future, and a whole lot of other important topics.

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Hallway to the bathrooms at the Mall of Scandinavia, Stockholm, January 2016.

 

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