What started as a simple mirror selfie became a symbol of LGBTQ inclusion when college student Julissa Emile tweeted photos of herself posing with queer-identifying peers. She'd found herself in a gender-neutral bathroom at a poetry slam and decided to take advantage of the facility's inclusiveness. More and more people huddled in for the camera so that each photo included an additional person.
"Personally, I think gender-neutral bathrooms are a necessity," Emile told Buzzfeed. "Everyone deserves the right to exist in a public space."
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration's guidelines for workplace bathrooms are in agreement with her. They state that people should at minimum be allowed to use the bathroom designated for the gender they identify with, and ideally, workplaces should also offer gender-neutral bathrooms for privacy's sake.
These photos are a breath of fresh air compared to the exclusion and bullying that far too many individuals face in bathrooms. The 2016 National Center for Transgender Equality survey found that 12% of trans and non-binary Americans have been verbally harassed in bathrooms over the past year, Reuters reports. In addition, 1% have faced sexual assault in a bathroom, and another 1% have been physically attacked.
Many people feel pressure to avoid bathrooms due to these experiences — and sometimes, they're not even given the choice. One trans student even recently recounted being forbidden from using the women's room by a teaching assistant on a field trip. And because of proposed legislation like Texas's SB6 and Alabama's SB1, such prohibitions could soon be codified in law in some parts of the country.
To those who believe bathrooms should be confined to a single gender, Emile says: "Why? People literally have gender-neutral bathrooms in their own homes. What's the big deal?"
The great thing about photos like this is that they shatter the vastly unfounded myth of the "trans bathroom predator" and instead show a positive — and much more accurate — portrayal of LGBTQ people. Emile told Buzzfeed that her photos should serve as a reminder that peaceful coexistence in restrooms — and everywhere else — is "absolutely possible."