“That’s the most photographed thing in this entire restaurant,” the owner whispered to me as I stood patiently trying to take a picture of this bathroom door sign. It says, “Whatever.”
I chuckled but immediately felt the urge to say thank you. The casual “whatever” sign is so much more than a photo-op. It’s a message of safety for people who worry every time they approach a bathroom.
People like me.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “wrong bathroom, buddy.” Yes, even at HR conferences. I’ve had bouncers grab my shirt, thinking I was a drunk man wandering into the ladies’ room. I’ve had a middle-aged woman ask, “what are you doing here?” It took a lot of restraint not to tell her, in that case.
All so I use the bathroom at a restaurant like everyone else.
Let me pause here to plead that you do not send me some, “how could anyone mistake you for a man,” email. I’m not fishing for compliments. I’m making a point.
I’ve written about these signs and my POV on privilege
before. Signs like “whatever” on the bathroom door are a confirmation when you’ve had experiences like mine. They are evidence that you are seen; that someone cares. It’s momentary recognition that you are safe and welcome - at restaurants, at grocery stores, and especially at work.
That’s why a few months ago, when a friend asked me about how to help an employee with they/them pronouns feel welcome, I jumped to help. I remember the day I got her DM. I was about to board a flight, ready to do research, and create a massive list of resources.
But I found nothing. There weren’t guides or recommendations. I couldn’t even find a blog post specific to work that would offer advice to HR on practices that will help employees with they/them pronouns feel safer.
So while I can’t swap out all the bathroom signs at restaurants and offices (y'all realize you don’t have a boys and girls room at your house, right?), I knew I could do something. So this week, I shared a crowd-sourced hub of resources for making your workplace a space where everyone feels supported. Reply to this email if you have something to add, and I’ll be sure to update the post.
I have two more links down there, too, including one surprise most people will never scroll far enough to find. Hell, if you’re even reading this sentence, know that I appreciate you.
Have a great weekend -