Musings on Texas Bathroom Bills: The Universal Need to Urinate and Defecate

May those who think they are doing good and being “biblical” by supporting these unimaginably cruel Texas Bathroom Bills take the time to reconsider and repent in the name of our shared humanity.

Unlocked bathroom stalls Texas Bathroom Bill
We all want open bathroom doors.

Dear Thoughtful Pastor: The Texas Legislature is considering regulating who uses what restroom. Lawyers and law enforcement say this is a non-issue because any threat to safety—such as assault and voyeurism—is already illegal. Teachers say the only privacy at risk is the transgender child’s whose already marginalized identity will be made a public issue in front of their classmates. However, many of the proponents for this legislation are people of faith. What does my faith say about how we should treat our transgender neighbors?

It is a universal truth, to be acknowledged by all, that every single human being on earth needs to urinate and defecate periodically. It is also a universal truth that all those past early childhood prefer to engage in those mandatory bodily functions in safe and private environments and as free as possible from residue left by others.

A second universal truth: young children and those with physical limitations may need help to perform those functions. Often the helper is not born with the same sexual appearance as the one needing help.

A third universal truth: when powerful people deny access to opportunities to engage in such necessary bodily acts, the likelihood of ill-health, not to mention public embarrassment, as a result of such denials grows exponentially.

A fourth universal truth: those who make it their mission to bar safe and private facilities to all have committed themselves to acting with extraordinary and merciless cruelty toward others.

The solution to the “Texas Bathroom Bill” horrors

The solution is mind-bendingly simple. Many parts of the world have long since figured this out. Provide ample private stalls which anyone may use. Build enough adequately spacious ones that more than one person can comfortably fit when necessary.

My husband and I recently returned from travels that took us into multiple countries bordering the Baltic Sea. In many places there, as well as other places we have seen, toileting facilities are not “sexed” or limited to one particular type of physical elimination possibilities.

Instead, we all enter the main door to the “WC” (water closet), find an open, fully private stall with no way to peer over or under as most US bathroom designs feature, do our business, emerge, wash our hands and leave. It is easy to tell when a private space is open because the locks indicate when the facility is in use.

Yes, those of us used to more restricted facilities do have to get over an initial discomfort factor. However, once this practice is normalized, it becomes no big deal.  Also, this option solves multiple “potty parity” issues that have long bedeviled those born with less accessible urinating apparatus. In our current system, one line of the restricted facilities will nearly always have double or triple the waiting time of the other.

With all using the same toileting facilities, we all have the same waiting time—which is much less across the board.

This option is also a simple recognition that all humans deserve to be offered dignity and privacy when performing those essential functions.

You want to be biblical? Pick up your trowels

If we need to be “biblical” about this, then let us indeed start observing this procedure, found in Deuteronomy 23: “You shall have a designated area outside the camp to which you shall go. With your utensils you shall have a trowel; when you relieve yourself outside, you shall dig a hole with it and then cover up your excrement” (Deut. 23:12-13, NRSV).

Trowels anyone?

People of faith must stand to up all who would deny any human being access to those safe and private spaces. Cruelty to others is never, ever a virtue of faith. Those who claim these bathroom bills are being “Christian” or “loving” or “being safe to others” have utterly deluded themselves.

I admit to this fantasy concerning those political and religious leaders who want to deny such safety and privacy to some. When these leaders enter the afterlife, they find themselves experiencing full bladders and urgently pressing bowels. They stand before a series of pristine and private toileting facilities. However, although others freely enter and leave, each time they approach a door, they find a locked, impenetrable barrier.

In time, they unavoidably soil themselves with the byproducts of their impressively efficient digestive functions. Compassionate, non-gender signifying people clean them, dress them in fresh clothes, and send them on their way.

When the inevitable needs to urinate and defecate hit again, the same nightmare repeats itself. The cycle continues until they throw themselves upon the undeserved mercy of those they so egregiously harmed in this life and acknowledge their wrongdoing.

At that point, the doors to the facilities forever show the “open” sign, offering free access to all who wish to enter.

May those who think they are doing good and being “biblical” by supporting these unimaginably cruel Texas Bathroom Bills take the time to reconsider and repent in the name of our shared humanity. There is no justification for these actions.

Photo Credit: A creative commons photo via Visual Hunt


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  • Skeptical Realist

    Found you through the Sin Boldly podcast.

    Your solution seems reasonable in form, but in implementation, depending upon how you envision it, quite a burden for some if not many. If applied only to new construction or renovation, the issue will linger for a long time, no? If mandatory within a set relatively short time interval, it will cost businesses and the public a lot in order to implement in such a timely manner, yes?

    To your point about adults tending to young children: Typically, when no family restroom is available an adult will take a baby or toddler (one still needing assistance) in her/his charge into the restroom corresponding to the adult’s gender, and that has never been a problem that I know.

    As for transgenders, as it was, if they didn’t expose their true gender, no one was the wiser, and no one was uncomfortable. Not sure why continuing that is a problem. The issue has been painted as one of sympathy for people who feel uncomfortable in the restroom of their actual gender. Yet amazingly the same consideration is not shown for others on the converse side of that, who are uncomfortable having a person with a penis and obviously so using the women’s room.

    It’s also surprising that you don’t even mention the impetus for the bathroom bills, however poorly thought out they may be, the recent move by some including no less than the Obama administration to mandate that anyone who self-identifies as female must be permitted access to female-specific restroom and even locker room facilities.

    So while your proposed solution is sound, as is the proposed implementation of family restrooms in addition to designated gender facilities, the implementation poses new issues. How would you propose it be handled?

    In Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior, the creator and sustainer of all,

    • jamesparson

      Handicap access was eventually built into buildings. I am sure restrooms will get remodeled too.

      As for locker rooms. Consider

      UC Berkeley’s Gym Plans to Open an All-Gender Locker Room Next Fall

    • Peebee

      Your post sounds very reasonable, but it is not based upon sound information:

      You talk about “transgender [people — transgender is not a noun] “exposing their true gender.” Their true gender is the one in which they are living in. But some people, either in the midst of a gender transition, do not meet someone else’s standard of gender conformity, or who do not pass, cannot assume that “no one is the wiser.” What you’re suggesting is that people risk arrest, hoping they sufficiently pass. And prior to risking arrest, you’re asking that they risk humiliation in the midst of performing an intimate bodily function….running the risk that someone will open the door on them, scream at them, warn others about them, etc. That is not how we treat other people. And in fact, several non-transgender (also known as cisgendered) women have been humiliated, burst in on, or asked to leave restrooms even though they’re using the restroom of the gender they presented at birth and have always identified with.

      And why is it amazing that the same consideration is not shown on the other side? Because it’s based upon misinformation or bigotry. I am a woman who has never worried about having a person with a penis using the women’s room. And if it’s “obviously so,” that means it is hanging out, and the person can be arrested for exposure. If someone is using a private stall and peeing, you cannot tell whether or not they have had gender confirmation surgery or not, and if you’re looking or worrying about it, you’re the one with the problem.

      How I propose we handle the problem? If there is the ability to build or designate an all-gender restroom, then do so. I recently attended a conference where a men’s room was repurposed for the weekend as an all-gender restroom. If you didn’t want to use it, you went to another floor. If you used it (as I did throughout the weekend, since my sessions were all on that level) you walk past the urinal and use the private stall. Yes, there were penises being used, but in a private stall — I didn’t see a single one.

      If there’s not the ability to build or designate an all-gender restroom, then allow people to use the restroom that matches the gender they identify with. Not the one on their birth certificate. Not the one they’ve had very expensive surgery to match. The one they identify with.

      If someone is exposing their genitals in public areas, arrest them for doing that. That’s already illegal. If someone impersonates the other gender for the purpose of viewing that gender in the restroom, arrest them. That’s already illegal.

      If someone is assaulted for using the bathroom, then arrest the person doing the assaulting. That’s already illegal. If they’re bullying someone, tell them to immediately stop and force them to leave if they can’t stop bullying someone.

      It’s not nearly as complicated as people who think we need bathroom bills are making it out to be — they’re a solution in search of a problem. Because the problem isn’t transgender people using the restroom. It’s bigotry against transgender people.

      • Skeptical Realist

        “Their true gender is the one in which they are living in.”

        No. It isn’t. Transgenders are people who are mentally ill, believing themselves to be of the opposite sex/gender to their actually biology. This is science.

        Already we have records of numerous abuses of transgender bathroom policies by male sexual predators. Pretending that doesn’t happen all for the placation of a mentally ill person’s anxiety is disgusting.

        Your entire argument is nonsense.

  • Chuck Johnson

    I was about eleven and traveling in the deep South with my family when we stopped at a rundown eatery. Never before and never since have I seen three bathrooms. I had only ever seen this in magazines.

    Southerners have gotten a lot of mileage out of restrooms as tools to commit bigotry, hate and oppression.

  • jamesparson

    OT: I have never had my gender checked before going to a restroom. Is this a thing in the South or something?