I’ve been to (and peed at) a large number of science fiction and fantasy conventions in the past ten years (oh god, ten???).
I will say that there are two main reasons for “failures” on the part of conventions in this area. One is that society in general is extremely cis-binary, and thus, most hotels, convention centers, etc, are set up with a strict MALE/FEMALE toilet situation. The second is a combination of ignorance and not having thought about whether or not someone who is neither male nor female is going to need to take a piss at some point over a long weekend.
Besides the situation in which someone is not male or female, and thus neither room “fits,” there are also a lot of binary trans people who either don’t pass, or pass weirdly, or pass sometimes, or aren’t sure if they pass, or etc, who are made nervous by the notion of going into one room or the other.
I’m short, fat, and up until last May, had an extremely large chest that I tried unsuccessfully to flatten with binders — and oh, do I have a binder rant, but I’ll get to that later, and won’t be paid for it.
Anyway, even after three, five, seven… years on testosterone, it was questionable as to whether or not I would be perceived as male or female. I got a random smattering of he or she in public, even from people who had known me for years and should have known better. However, I almost never got a non-binary pronoun, since presumably anyone who knows the option exists to just not gender people if you don’t know, also are aware enough to know my pronouns. So, even when I didn’t bind, my hairline marked me as other, and even if my massive chest was clearly unbound and visible, I would still get Suspicious Eyes in women’s restrooms at times. Typically men’s rooms don’t involve making eye contact (that could make you GAY, I guess), but occasionally some cheerful cis man would explain to me where the women’s room was, since I was quite obviously lost.
Gender neutral restrooms would have been much more comfortable if they were available, but if they weren’t, I would frequently make the journey back to my hotel room to use the toilet, sometimes even if it was in a different hotel, if I didn’t feel like dealing with the potential awkward situation.
In any case, some conventions are coming on board with being more welcoming to non-binary people by making gender-neutral toilets available. Some. More would be nice. Add this to your to-do list, along with making sure that your harassment policy is on board, that you have guests who aren’t all white and male, or all white, or all male, and remembering to ask the hotel for fucking ramps for your motherfucking stages.
(Also, I just want to throw it out there that although I’m non-binary, I still use male pronouns and I am not the appointed leader of the non-binary contingent, so others may and will have their own opinions about this stuff.)
The naming of the names.
This is not an exhaustive list of the gender-neutral toilet situation at every science fiction convention. Nor is it exhaustive for the ones I’ve been to. Overwhelmingly, though, most of the conventions are in the first category.
Norwescon/Orycon/Most conventions I’ve attended: No public gender-neutral restrooms at all. If you’re not comfortable in either a MEN’s or WOMEN’s room, you better plan on running to your hotel room every time you have to go… which sucks if you’re cheap like me and stay in a different hotel altogether.
Worldcon 75(Helsinki): I did see a gender-neutral toilet. Unfortunately, the one that I saw also seemed to be an accessible toilet, by which I mean, the only accessible toilet? I think? I spoke to several non-binary people who were a bit uncomfortable taking up an accessible toilet, but I spent so much time not figuring out the layout of Messukeskus that I could be wrong, in which case, I apologize.
Wiscon: There is always a gender-neutral toilet on the second floor of the convention, which is not officially a public restroom, but is in one of the meeting rooms/hotel rooms that is rented by the convention. It’s centrally located… but really insufficient in quantity for the number of non-binary people who attend Wiscon. Good, solid effort, but we need more toilets.
Arisia: I attended Arisia for the first time in… uh…I think 2017? I honestly can’t remember if I went this year or last year, though I’m pretty sure it was this year. That just shows you how busy I’ve been. In any case, they solved the problem in the hotel by just labeling both rooms as gender-neutral. This worked fine. I never knew if I was going to end up walking past people using the urinals, but overall, it worked fine. Nobody spontaneously combusted.
I haven’t attended a convention that did this, but apparently at least one person has seen restrooms labeled “urinals” or “no urinals”, which is mostly a good plan, I guess, although I would prefer an explicit gender-neutral tag on the sign as well, otherwise I, personally, would get caught up in assuming cis biological essentialism and guessing that urinals = men’s room. (TFW you don’t agree with a cis-normative line of thought, but fall back on it frequently in a desperate attempt to guess what others are thinking.)
Thoughts and suggestions and whatever.
1.) Single-use rooms should always be non-gendered. Gendering these rooms is fucking stupid anyway, because what happens when there’s a line for the arbitrarily-marked women’s room? Cis women will just piss in the other room, anyway, in an attempt to shorten the line, which is only logical. Just. Come on.
2.) Single-use accessible restrooms should be non-gendered, because, hey! People who use wheelchairs come in all the genders of people who don’t. But, the single-use accessible restrooms should not be the only non-gendered restrooms.
3.) Assume that non-gendered restrooms will be used by more than one person. It’s really not just a theoretical exercise. Non-binary (or binary people who don’t “pass” and feel more comfortable not worrying about it) people do come to conventions.
4.) If at all possible, just make all the toilets non-gendered.
5.) Regardless of gender, I want everyone to just stop pissing on the floor, for fuck’s sake.
Finally, if you must gender your fucking restrooms, (which is stupid), can everyone stop using cutesy-ass weird words to denote male and female? I DON’T KNOW, WHICH ROOM IS PRESUMABLY FOR MEN IF I HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN A MOOSE AND AN ELK? IS THIS SOMETHING I WOULD KNOW IF I WAS CIS??? WHY DO YOU FUCKERS HAVE TO MAKE IT SO HARD.
People in Switzerland Want to Know Who Is Clogging Their Toilets With Wads of Cash
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