“Everybody is welcome:” YMCA opens public unisex bathrooms

Aug 9, 2019

The Gleason Family YMCA transformed two of its single-occupancy bathrooms into gender-neutral ones, making them the first public unisex facilities at the gym. The change was advocated by Leeandra Booth, an aerobics instructor at the Y who also works in the welcome center.

Signs on the handicap-accessible bathrooms depict silhouettes of both a man and a woman. This simple yet “powerful symbol” signals equal access to all, regardless of gender expression or identity. 

“Just having these two people next to each other in a simple sign says so much: everybody is welcome,” said Booth. “It’s more a symbolism than it is the actual bathroom sign. As a country, we need to step forward and stop treating people differently just because of who they are or who they choose to be.”

Besides gender equality, the unisex bathrooms also signal an end to the absurd era when people felt bound to stand in line for a single-user bathroom that corresponded most closely to their gender identities while a differently labeled bathroom stood empty. 

“I’ve seen people wait ten minutes for the bathroom to open when another bathroom is exactly the same but has another gender’s sign,” said Booth. “Everybody does their business, we are all the same humans, we just may look a little bit different, act a little bit different.”

Booth added that unisex restrooms would also help parents with children of a different gender and adults caring for aging parents. 

While the Gleason Family YMCA already had all-gender bathrooms, those were only accessible to the gym members or people with a guest pass. The newly installed gender-neutral bathrooms are available to the general public. 

“I hope everybody has a positive mindset about it and has love in their hearts,” said Booth. “That’s the most important thing: We are all humans, we should love each other, we should not be fighting over trivial things.”

Besides working at YMCA, Booth is an actress who most recently played the role of Margaret in the Glass Horse Project’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing,” which was performed in Onset at the bandshell. 

“Because I work with the theater so much, I meet so many wonderful people and it opened my eyes to all the different and interesting personalities out there,” said Booth. “Great people are all around us and we should open our arms to everybody.”