Thursday, February 24, 2011

Restrooms, Gendering

When an androgynous patron asks you to point him or her to the library's restroom, librarians can avoid any awkwardness by...
  • Giving them directions to the "family" restroom.
  • Saying, "Our restrooms are closed for cleaning."
  • Mumbling something about a jammed printer and running away.
  • Pulling the fire alarm.
  • Handing them a paper cup and saying, "Just use this."

29 comments:

zugwrack said...

i usually find most posts here amusing but this one irked me just a bit. see, i am a transgender person and i have experienced far too many instances of public restroom awkwardness to find this funny. library patrons come in all shapes and sizes. if you can't handle respectfully directing someone in the vague direction of the restrooms, maybe you should get a job away from the front desk and, you know, people. just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

As an MSLIS degree holder and partner of a trans person, I find this entry offensive, although I understand it was likely intended as a joke. The better solution would be for the library to have non-gendered, single occupant restrooms located at various spots throughout the building and appropriate signage to direct patrons. If you can't change the bathrooms, at least change the signs. If you can't do that or it's not enough, be respectful and say "our mens' room is here and our womens' room is here."

Kyle said...

... I was envisioning a library in which the men's and women's rooms are in different sections of the building. I work at a campus where the student center is constructed in this way.

Anonymous said...

zugwrack - I believe the majority of the followers of this blog are professionals who spend our entire day being respectful and helpful to library patrons of all shapes and size. Give us a little credit, will ya?

Anonymous said...

I'm offended that so many trans-gendered people had their sense of humor removed. If you can't find the restroom, you're either:
1. Unable to read
or
2. Lazy
Stop judging the behavior of others, and work on your own attitudes. Be gracious, and not wear your choices like a chip on your shoulder.

Anonymous said...

Uggghhhh - up until now, I thought this was a haven where we could laugh at ourselves and our political correctness and the difficult situations we are faced with every day. But there's always somebody that insists on interpreting silly nonsense as a big offense. There were probably people that wrote irate letters to Saturday Night Live about Julia Sweeney's androgynous "Pat" character, too. Yawn.

Anonymous said...

i interpret this post as mocking library staff who get so frazzled at their inability to put someone into a box that they pull the fire alarm rather than answer a simple question in a respectful way. it's funny because it's sad and true, like most of the posts on this blog.
however, what isn't funny is how the comments turn into "transpeople are a bunch of humorless complainers...also, PAT" as soon as someone says it's a little too close to home for them to find it funny. why do you have to go there (and prove this post to be unpleasantly representative of the readership of the blog)?

zugwrack said...

Actually, Anonymous(es), my point was that the joke is just old. I'm not expressing offense, I think you're thinking of someone else. So, maybe you need to take the attitude down a few notches. I'm just saying that it's a bummer to find something you thought was cool and interesting turns out to be just like all the other weak stuff out there. The world is full of Two and a Half Men senses of humor. It's lame to find weak jokes where you presumed there would be none. That's it. The subject matter is almost irrelevant. I guess I'm just saying I expected a little more than this. Calm down, Crabbypants. : )

Anonymous said...

Hey, I love that this topic thread is happening during Freedom to Read Week up here in Canada! Hallejuah that we can
A) Write the post the way it is
B) Object to the post
and
C) Object to the objections.

Long Live Free Speech!!

Anonymous said...

Making "jokes" about transgender people isn't funny.

Instead of poking fun at transgenders, maybe you should re-evaluate the fact that there are not any bathrooms that are gender neutral. Why not just have a unisex one instead?

This joke is about as funny as making jim crow jokes. Ie, it's not. Also, people who don't think that this "joke" is not funny haven't had their sense of humor removed. It's called not being an ass. Just like I don't make "jokes" about how to find a black person a bathroom, I don't make "jokes" about transgenders.
What's next, making a joke about how to help a mentally retarded kid find a book?

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 3: " Be gracious, and not wear your choices like a chip on your shoulder."

Choices? Being transgendered isn't a choice. Read up on it before you make flippant comments.

Anonymous said...

Why are people assuming this post is about transgender people? That's not AT ALL how I interpreted it. There are several people in my library in my line of sight right now whose gender is not particularly obvious at first glance. Particularly if they are very, very young or very, very old and not dressed in a particularly gender-specific way. My ability to identify their gender does not affect the quality of service I give them, but it does affect whether I use words like "Sir" or "Ma'am" when trying to get their attention. If you don't think something is funny, that's fine, but life is too short to interpret everything as a purposeful insult when it's not.

Anonymous said...

As for having plentiful unisex bathrooms, that would be nice in an ideal world, and it is an idea I might support for small buildings that only need 2-4 stalls. But in any library building that requires a large number of facilities, it's not even remotely practical. It would take up significantly more room in the building, be much more expensive to implement, and be more difficult to maintain and police. Not to mention, what about all of the other add-ins that modern bathrooms have, like baby-changing stations, machines for feminine hygiene products, urinals, etc.? Would those go into ALL of the single unit stalls? What about a mother who has 4 children with her and wants to bring them all in the bathroom with her and not leave them unattended? Do they all squeeze into one unit and take turns?

Amy said...

"Why are people assuming this post is about transgender people? That's not AT ALL how I interpreted it. There are several people in my library in my line of sight right now whose gender is not particularly obvious at first glance."

Why does it matter? In either case, you don't possess an inherent right to know their exact gender identity.

Anonymous said...

Hey Everyone! RELAX!!
I found nothing offensive in the original post.
To me it was merely making light of what must at times be a dreary job, and, as a partially sighted person I often need to ask directions to something that's in clear view to anyone else.
Political Correctness has gone viral.
Cheers!

Amy said...

"Relax" is not an acceptable answer to someone pointing out insensitivity. It's rude, in fact.

Sure wish the blogger would respond here.

Samantha said...

Regardless of the intent of the writer, how anyone else reads it, or how much political correctness irritates people, this made ME feel uncomfortable as someone who falls on the trans spectrum. I agree with you, zugwrack, pointing out how awkward it is to socially interact with someone whose gender identity isn't obvious is a pretty overdone joke, and frankly, probably the least funny post I've ever read on this blog.

c. simpkins said...

since when was the practice of being a decent human turned into being "politically correct?"

Anonymous said...

We all have connections to libraries- we know that if you don't like it get over it. There's something for everyone here and just because this joke doesn't appeal to your sense of humor doesn't mean you get to bitch and cry until it's censored for everyone else.

And don't even start about how it's not the same. It is.

Still upset? Then don't read. But don't crusade on our part.

Jim S. said...

Good grief, what an uproar. More than once, I've been at a reference desk and been uncertain whether I should greet a patron with "Sir" or "Ma'am". So I just give a bright customer service smile, and mumble. It's not insensitivity, it's uncertainty.

To the ALGTE blogger: please ignore all this; we need your disrespectfulness.

Anonymous said...

You know what I do when someone tells me a joke that I think is lame and tired? Pretty much the same thing I do when I encounter somebody that is making a big stink over something that doesn't deserve it. I ignore them and move onto something else.

Anonymous said...

Amy - "Why does it matter? In either case, you don't possess an inherent right to know their exact gender identity."

EXACTLY. If you read the rest of my post, rather than taking one line out of context and choosing to take issue with it, you would see that I agree with you and in fact, you are making the exact same point that I was making.

James David said...

I thought this post was funny, especially the bit about the jammed printer. Printers jam so often it's likely you're not even lying, just telling a truth you haven't empirically verified yet.

When you get to the printer, you can unjam it. The people whose documents were jammed will be so happy they'll give you a rabbit.

Anonymous said...

Wow.
Political correctness over common sense- again.
I thought the post was great!
Are we so arrogant as a culture to believe we can force others to like EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE WORLD? Yes- I said LIKE, NOT RESPECT.
There was no disrespect in this post but the reaction was treating it as though the person didn't LIKE transgender people.
Stop twisting it.
It was a normal HUMAN reaction of confusion that might result showing how a HUMAN may react to someone who's gender they're not sure of...
Let's all take a deep breath, and grow up.
You CANNOT force everyone to get along with everyone else. That is NOT life. That is life under a rock, your rock.
If that offends your sensibilities you need a REAL reality check. Try some Third world places if you really want to know what barbarity and offensiveness means...
Good grief.
It's like our entire culture has turned 15, and people take it as their personal jobs to regulate others.

Anonymous said...

I'm offended that you're offended!
NO!
I'M offended that YOU'RE OFFENDED!
NO!
...
...
...
We're really all so smart and advanced when we try to guilt others into believing something that they really don't.
All in the name of "open-mindedness" of political correctness, when in reality forcing your will on others is the complete opposite of open-mindedness.
The solution is actually very simple. Grow up.
Stop believing you can actually tell others what to believe and thereby forcing them to comply with your little worlds.
It's a big bad world and 1 person isn't crap really. That's life.
Try it sometime, without your sensitive "whoah is me" and the "I'm offended" about this and that nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Most of these posts are telling us to do something that we know a polite librarian shouldn't do. That's the joke. And that's how I read it. It's funny because it's not true.

Anonymous said...

Would it be insensitive to engage the patron in conversation about just WHICH of the separated restrooms said transgender person would be more comfortable using?

Or maybe just simply say "Sure. That's our most popular reference question. Men's is over there; and Women's is over that way."

Anonymous said...

Agreed- funny because it's not what a good librarian would do. And especially entirely relevant because I've seen co-workers do some variation on it. :[

Anonymous said...

To the two people who pointed out a version of the following:

"Agreed- funny because it's not what a good librarian would do. And especially entirely relevant because I've seen co-workers do some variation on it. :["

Thank you! I was beginning to worry that none of the posters actually read the blog to have an accurate concept of its tone. I agree with both of you: the hilarity of the blog comes from its relatability. In this post, for instance, how many of us have witnessed a co-worker bypass the so-brilliantly-simple move of just mentioning the direction of both mens' and womens' restrooms, and instead engage in one of the cringe-worthy moves described? Chances are, a LOT of us have seen this happen, probably more than once.

Even more cringe-worthy, often the person engaging in this behavior seems to have no idea it is not professional. Hence the beauty of the tongue-in-cheek nature of this blog.

It wasn't a joke about finding it difficult to interact with persons of non-obvious gender, it was (like most all the jokes on the blog) a joke about the cringe-worthy behavior of fellow librarians.