Monday, November 9, 2015

On Public Bathrooms & Locker Rooms

Last week, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) was defeated because of concerns criminals might dress like women to get into women’s bathrooms.

Never mind that twelve states and  hundreds of US cities, including Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin, have laws just like HERO and none have seen a surge in crime in women’s bathrooms.

Perhaps I hang out in a better class of bathroom than HERO opponents do, but I am not concerned about crime there. (Being grossed out, yes, crime, no.)

I was struck, however, by readers’ comments, even at the New York Times, admitting they’d feel funny using unisex bathrooms and, especially, locker rooms.

Many were aghast at the thought of seeing a penis in the ladies’ room. In my 50 years of using ladies’ rooms, however, I have yet to see anyone’s genitalia. There are stalls, people, and even in men’s rooms with urinals, my guess is nobody's swinging his penis around.

Locker rooms are different. In those, you do see other people naked and they see you naked – and I don’t think anybody likes that.

We should get rid of group showers. They were invented to save money when building facilities but, since people then try not to use those facilities, they’re a total waste. We need private showers, particularly for self-conscious middle and high schoolers.

And therein lies the silver lining.

Maybe accommodating transgender people will lead us to design better bathrooms and locker rooms!

Unisex bathrooms might have floor-to-ceiling doors on the stalls with those vacant/occupied signs, for example.

Voila! No more peering under the doors to see if there are feet.

As is often the case, when we finally begin to think about things in order to address the concerns of a previously ignored group, we all benefit.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Amazing Place

I wrote this article about Amazing Place, a center for people with dementia here in Houston, and I was really touched by the families who were willing to talk with me about dealing with dementia in their own families, in the hopes of helping someone else. And Amazing Place is actually pretty amazing.