A Safe Place to Pee

By October 26, 2016 BYM, CQC, Firecircle, General

David Hunter, Camp Property Manager

There are a few things all of us need. We all need air to breath. We need water to drink. We need food to eat. We need shelter and love… And we all need a safe place to pee.
Ivan Coyote
(www.ted.com/talks/ivan_coyote_why_we_need_gender_neutral_bathrooms)

In talking to folks who knew me as a teenager I get the impression that, from their perspective I looked like a kid who was well adjusted and doing fine. However, as I look back at adolescence from my own perspective I did not always feel like I was well-adjusted or like I was doing fine. That may be a feeling that others can relate to. There is a lot going on inside of us as we are growing up: struggling to find our place socially, sorting out our place in the world, trying to get our awkward bodies to what we want them to be and trying to negotiate all of the various relationships that are becoming more and more important to us.

2016_09_05_0221Some of the areas that were most challenging to me during middle school and at the camps that I attended had to do with going to the bathroom and bathing. In the middle school that I attended I was most likely to be physically threatened or intimidated in the restrooms or the locker rooms than anywhere else at school. While I felt much safer at Camp than at school, that same feeling of intimidation often followed me into the bathhouses there.

LGBTQ people report that they are more likely to be physically threatened or harassed in restrooms and locker rooms than any other public place. Furthermore, there is evidence that minority or marginalized people also endure threats and harassment in public bathrooms. Perhaps all of us, to some degree feel vulnerable in public bathrooms and it is unfortunate that some respond to this sense of vulnerability by lashing out or demeaning those around them.

The way many public facilities are designed actually promotes this kind of intimidation, harassment and sense of vulnerability. Open showers, toilet and urinal stalls that do not provide enough privacy and poorly placed entry ways that make public what should probably be kept private are all examples of design that lacks attention to this kind of concern.

When we set out to design the new bathhouses at Catoctin we wanted to address this issue. We felt that, given all of the challenges that our children face each day, we do not want to design a facility that creates new, unnecessary emotional challenges. There are choices built into the design of the new bathhouse. If you want to be able to talk to your friends while going to the bathroom or taking a shower you can. If you want to be able to close the curtain and have some privacy in the shower you can. If you are having trouble deciding if you should go in the boy’s side of the bathhouse or the girl’s side, you can postpone the decision and use the family style bathroom.

These choices are helpful and respectful of all children and are indicative of the brilliance we have as a community when we seek to address issues together. It is the result of a community working together on a problem and it is only one of many concerns that were addressed as we worked through the design process together. Being part of a spiritual community seeking solutions to problems together is one of the fundamental joys that I take in working as Camp Property Manager for Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

20160717_141355702_ios