On North Carolina’s Bathroom Problem


(Photo by Alex Derr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The decision of the North Carolina House and Senate to regulate bathroom access by gender assigned at birth brings up visions of a crowded men’s room invaded by a platinum blonde transgender woman, striding through the door on high heels! Wish I was there to witness the consternation of the men.

The regulation reminds me of Bill Whitehouse, my coworker at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in 1949. We were both lab technicians. I was a disgruntled immigrant then, who no doubt irritated Bill with some of her pronouncements. I’ve still never discovered how I had annoyed Bill that particular day, but he turned angrily to me, declaring how disgusting it was that “in Europe men and women share public bathrooms.” Moreover, he pointed out, “in France they even have small kiosks for people to relieve themselves on the street.”

Until that exchange, the “amorality” of the first half of that custom had never struck me. Now it seems to me an admirable solution to a needless problem.

I can’t imagine bathrooms becoming a hotbed of sex! After all, we don’t segregate sexes in our own homes. Furthermore, it might shorten female bathroom lines at concerts and the like, at which frustrated women regularly threaten to take over the men’s room. Yes, urinals are somewhat offensive looking, but they could be eliminated or their unsightliness could be hidden in a stall.

Way back in 1949, I asked Bill Whitehouse how he handled his natural urges when caught downtown. “I look for a hotel,” he said. I have followed his advice during the past sixty-five years. Thank you, Bill.


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