Why Ashton Kutcher Just Helped the Gender Neutral Bathroom Debate

March 10th 2015

Laura Donovan

New parents learn something new every day, and celebrity dad Ashton Kutcher is learning that male public restrooms don't always cater to fathers. The Midwestern native, whose first child was born late last year, took to Facebook to complain about this over the weekend:


Though the actor sends a powerful message about insufficient access to childcare necessities for dads, an issue parenting bloggers have lamented before, it also calls for more gender-neutral bathrooms, which often provide changing tables so moms, dads, and transgender people always have a place to set down their babies. These bathrooms are important so transgender or nonconforming gender individuals don't have to face discrimination or potential conflict by choosing the "wrong" restroom.

The good news is that many cities and college campuses have created gender-neutral bathrooms to create safe spaces for all members of the community. Last year, Northwestern University added two new, gender-neutral bathrooms, which Rainbow Alliance LGBT President Michelle Margulis said was a positive move for the campus. 

“I don’t think that there have been any violent altercations on campus that I’ve heard of in the restroom, but it can be very disconcerting, for example, to go and use the restroom…and have somebody tell you you’re in the wrong restroom, just based on their perception of you,” she told CBS Chicago in July. “This is what I’ve heard from transgender friends of mine.” 

Earlier this year, West Hollywood became California's first city to have gender-neutral bathrooms. "I know for a number of transgender people that having to choose whether to go into the male or female restroom is not as easy as it can be for non-transgender people," West Hollywood Councilwoman Abbe Land told the LA Times in January. The movement was approved in the state after a member of the Transgender Advisory Board mentioned a 2010 attack on a transgender student in a college bathroom. The altercation involved an individual carving "it" onto another student's chest on a bathroom stall. 

Midland, Mich., recently made headlines after a Planet Fitness member was banned from the gym for discriminating against a transgender individual in the women's locker room. When the fitness center reminded her of its "judgment free" policy, she went on to tell other women at the center about encountering a transgender individual in the locker room. This led to her membership termination, and while she complained of feeling "unsafe" about a trans individual sharing her restroom, trans folks are the ones who have to worry about safety the most.