"What's the point of segregated bathrooms?" I asked back in 2012 in a piece that extolled the virtues of unisex toilets.
In my mind, the ideal layout of these unisex conveniences involves individual toilet rooms accessed off a spacious central "cloakroom".
For the sake of efficiency, I reckon all the mirrors and wash basins should be in the central communal area so people (and by people, I especially mean "ladies") are not inclined to linger in the actual toilet zones.
Judging by a couple of recent headlines, the existence of segregated toilets continues to cause dilemmas. The argument for the abolition of toilets designated for specific genders has never been more compelling.
1. Unisex toilets are transgender friendly
Recently it was revealed that one "popular Auckland primary school" has installed a unisex bathroom in order to support a six-year-old transgender pupil.
If all the toilets in the school were unisex there would have been no need to make such a dramatic gesture towards a child who would surely be looking for assimilation rather than special treatment.
Indeed, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said that new schools built feature unisex bathrooms as a matter of course. That's a step forward.
2. Unisex toilets are parent friendly
Herald columnist Matt Heath was treated as the enemy after he assisted a young boy in a public toilet. If toilets were unisex the mother would not have had to wait outside while her child negotiated the urinal.
If ever there was a case for unisex bathrooms this is it. Segregated bathrooms can entice a parent of the opposite gender to heed the signs on the toilet doors rather than to keep an eye on the child they're supposed to be looking after. That's potentially problematic - both for the child and for any well meaning citizen who may become involved.
3. Unisex toilets are women friendly
Lengthy queues to the women's toilets are legendary. They've often inspired women to rebel and visit the men's. One comment on my earlier piece went: "If there were co-ed toilets then MEN would end up having to partake in the queuing, so no thanks to that."
Surely men aren't such power freaks they feel they must rule in the toilet stakes as well as in the boardrooms. Surely this segregated toilet situation isn't yet another misogynistic plot to bolster the patriarchy.
4. Unisex toilets already exist
Many of us already frequent unisex toilets without a second thought; we merrily visit Portaloos and toilets on aircraft. So far the sky has not fallen in.
5. Unisex toilets need no translation
I can't be the only person who can be briefly flummoxed by the indicators on toilet doors. The traditional "Women" and "Men" signs are being replaced by labels with a bit of imagination and pizzazz. Mexican restaurants might use "Senor" and "Senorita", which is straightforward enough when toilets are concerned.
But sometimes a moment of concentration is called for, especially if pictures or symbols are involved. Do I wear a dress or trousers? Am I a top-hat or a pair of gloves? A moustache or lips? Am I XX or XY?
Bet you wish you concentrated in biology class right about now. Am I a Smurf or a Smurfette? A stallion or a mare? A chick or a rooster? A pimp or a prostitute? Arrrrgh! Please make it end. Bring on more unisex toilets.
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