Content note: this post talks about bodily functions a lot, and touches on discussing transmisogyny.
This week, I seem to have become quite the Miss Manners, with a second etiquette post in the space of just a few days. This one is about toilet etiquette, because apparently the tired old unisex toilet “debate” has come up again, with transphobic bigots pranging out about the notion of toilets where anyone of any gender can shit without fear of violence. I can only imagine these bigots have sex segregated dunnies in their own houses, which sounds pretty expensive on the upkeep.
Now, I’m a firm believer in unisex toilets, but I’m also aware of what makes toilets horrible. Having pissed in toilets for all genders across my life (I hate queuing, when I need to go), let me state straight off the bat: disgusting toilets are not gendered. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe in the ladies’ loo, and these things, unfortunately, will never be lost in time like tears in rain. I am not sure where the myth that ladies’ toilets are nicer comes from: they’re just differently disgusting.
Regardless of what your genitals look like, there is one simple rule for a public toilet which I cannot believe needs stating, because I learned it when I was a tiny child: be fucking considerate of others.
This probably isn’t clear enough, given the fucking state of toilets I’ve been in in my life, so allow me to give a few simple pointers.
Wipe the fucking seat
This is especially targeted at the dreaded hoverers, those monsters who stalk through the ladies’ and consider their delicate bums too precious for the filthy bog seat. So they stand over it, piss on the seat and then leave it there, thus making the dirty seat a self-fulfilling prophecy. These people are by far the worst terrors of public restrooms, and I will be grinding more of my axes with hoverers later in this post.
Nice, normal citizens might also get pee, poo or period on the seat once in a while, although are likely less an egregious toilet terrorist than the hoverers.
Either way, if you get something on the toilet seat, wipe it off. Just… take a little bit of loo roll and wipe the seat before you flush. It’s fine. You’re not touching the excreta, and even if you did, slightly, you’re going to wash your hands anyway, right? …right?
Please wash your hands.
Put the fucking seat down
About half of the population can stand to pee. Statistically, however, less than half of what you’re doing in the toilet requires standing. So, statistically speaking, put that seat down afterwards. It takes about a second to do, and shows you’re thinking of others.
Also, I return to my first point. Wipe down any stray wee-wee. Yes, even if you missed and got in on the floor. Clean it up. If you’re missing your aim regularly, just sit down to piss, regardless of your genital configuration. You clearly lack the knack for it, so… do it.
If the toilet won’t flush, don’t fucking block it
Nobody likes having to leave a public toilet with an enormous floater left there, for which everyone knows you’re responsible. So you might try to cover it up with toilet roll to make it look less blatantly present. Don’t do this: it’ll possibly block the toilet which makes everything far less pleasant for other bathroom-users than having to see the turd you produced.
It’s fine, using a toilet which someone else has used. It’s a public toilet. We all know that people do poos and wees in there. Nobody’s touching your poo, and it’ll probably flush after someone else has used the toilet. Yes, it’s a little embarrassing, but so what? It’s just a poo. Brazen it out.
However, if you somehow missed the toilet with your pooping, return to my first top potty tip and–say it with me–clean that shit up.
Dispose of things, fucking properly
Some hoverers have an even more unpleasant habit than merely peeing on the seat: they’ll cover the seat in toilet paper, then invariably piss all over it and leave damp clods of urine-soaked bog roll so nobody else will be able to sit down that day. Don’t do that. If you must cover the seat, then get rid of what you’ve covered it in.
If you use disposable period gear, make sure you get rid of that, too. There’s usually bins. Put these things in the bin. This includes tampons. While some may be flushable, most will eventually block the loo and be terrible for the environment, so pop that in the bin. Cardboard applicators, which sometimes advertise themselves as flushable are, in my experience, manifestly not flushable.
Now, I’ve seen some horrors in ladies’ loos, and the worst of these involve inappropriately-disposed-of sanitary towels. I have seen them stuck to the fucking toilet door. Why would anyone do this? Please don’t do this, it’s absolutely fucking vile. See also: smearing blood. Blood gets on your hands. You are going to wash your hands though, right? …right?
It’s especially important to dispose of menstrual products appropriately, because the period and/or nappy bins are often maintained by different cleaning companies, who come in less frequently, because the stuff counts as biohazard. So if you stick your towel to the door, chances are it’ll be there for days.
Shout-out to any toilet-having venues: make sure you have the bins.
Toilets are for bodily functions, not for hanging out
Returning to my point about the large floater, above, the embarrassment factor often comes from the way other people interact with one another in the toilet. Let’s treat toilets as what they are: a functional place to empty your bowels, bladder or mooncup, without any red faces. Treat it as broadly anonymous. What happens in the toilet, stays in the toilet.
Don’t stare at people, give them privacy. We’re all just here to go, and nobody has any more or less right to use the bloody toilet.
Transphobes like to pretend that it’s trans women who are the danger in public toilets, but honestly? The most intrusive experience I ever had in a public toilet was when the cis woman in the queue behind me, who I dimly knew, tried to follow me into the fucking cubicle. This is not on. Just wait an additional thirty seconds, Susan.
This is why the best public toilets of all are the ones which have the full-sized door and a sink in the cubicle, so you can just get on with your business in peace. More like these please.
Oh yeah… wash your fucking hands
Toilets are not, and will never be a germ-free environment, and neither is the human body from which you just cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war. This is not nice, but it’s hardly a deal-breaker. Please wash your hands after using the toilet, whether you think you need to or not. Your hands are covered in germs (and probably not just toilet-germs, but snot germs and cough germs and pet germs and… to be honest, your hands are probably far grosser than the toilet seat you won’t deign to touch). Your hands are touching everything, including other people, or things other people will touch. So wash your goddamn hands.
Toilet-builders do need to get better
A lot of places have toilets where maintenance is poor, the set-up is awful, and all sorts of other horrors. A lot of the issues can be mitigated by people using the loo being considerate. However, some of the problem is firmly in the hands of the venue. I mentioned completely individual toilet-units. These are the dream. Especially if they’re all accessible. As a stopgap, make sure each cubicle is relatively private, that there’s enough toilet roll and soap to go around, that the toilets have been cleaned and that the bins are emptied frequently.
What about unisex loos?
Unisex toilets are not only a possibility, but they’re already a reality. And many of them are an absolutely fine pissing environment. Venues should consider more unisex toilets, not fewer. All of these tips should be used in gendered toilets, in unisex toilets, in your own toilet at home.
So please, please be a nice toilet-user, and stop blaming marginalised people for your toilet experience.