A conversation with the trans artist Emmett Ramstad (ACG '12) explores how public bathrooms are contested spaces emblematic of how the United States functions.
ER: That is an interesting question, what is neutrality? Is gender ever neutral? Perhaps these so called neutral ones are actually the segregated ones? I think about how the common bathroom stall colors are variations of “neutral” beige, the same tones that are popular Home Depot carpet colors, siding on homes in the suburbs, khaki uniforms — these product colors are being sold as neutral or customizable but are so industrialized. Stores and commercial buildings buy these steel bathroom partitions so that they are the same, recognizable across different kinds of spaces. Neutral is produced as something you can really see difference against. And, yes, the fence is emblematic of this neoliberal agenda in the United States and the idea that one can purchase safety, privacy, and freedom if you have the means. Single stall “gender neutral” bathrooms awkwardly reflect the institutions that make them. “Just buy those trans people a bathroom so that they stop trying to come into ours; that will fix it. Keep them separate so that we don’t have to feel confused.” I’m not sure this strategy will ever fix the problem, which is so much about segregation, othering.