One woman's clever plan to revolutionize single-stall bathrooms.

Kristin Russo and her wife were at a restaurant in Union Square when they were faced with a serious dilemma: They both had to pee.

The problem wasn't that there was a line for the restroom. Quite the opposite. There were only two bathrooms; both single-stall, and both vacant.

Two people. Two private toilets. Should be easy, right?


And it is — except for that pesky stick figure of a man emblazoned on one of the doors, an arbitrary indicator of who is allowed to do their private business in that private little room.

GIF from "My Little Pony."

Sure, one of them probably could have just slipped into the men's room. But that wouldn't solve the larger problem: Why do we need to gender single-stall bathrooms in the first place?

"It's so silly, but it's a good reflection of how much that gender binary permeates our society," Russo told Upworthy.

GIF from "Adventure Time."

Russo felt compelled to do … something. But she wasn't exactly sure how to broach the subject with the restaurant's management.

Her feelings of nervousness and uncertainty came as a surprise even to her, considering the fact that she's the co-founder and CEO of the LGBTQ community organization Everyone Is Gay. This kind of activism is what she does.

She also knew that this bathroom situation was even more difficult for people who are trans, non-binary, or gender nonconforming — people like Mal Blum, a singer-songwriter who lives in New York and is a major supporter of Russo's work.

"I was choosing between gendered single-stall bathrooms at a favorite diner in NYC just yesterday," Blum said over email. "Personally, I think it should be a law everywhere that if a bathroom is intended for use by one person, then it needs to be accessible for any one person and shouldn't be gendered."

GIF from "Big Bang Theory."

Because of her experience, and feedback from people like Blum, Russo was inspired to launch a new initiative called OUR Restroom.

Though it's still in its earliest funding stages, OUR (which stands for "One Unisex Restroom") is a pretty simple resource that allows people to nominate businesses with single-stall bathrooms, asking them to embrace the full accommodations of gender neutrality.

Then the OUR team staff — which at this point is Russo and her colleague, singer/songwriter Allison Weiss — will reach out to those businesses and help them through the process of becoming a place where all people can pee in comfort.

"OUR Restroom will affect tangible day-to-day change for many people, because they're willing to put the work in to talk to businesses directly about this," Blum said.

On one hand, this sounds so simple that it's almost silly — it's basically just taking down a sign, right?

But on the other hand, it can still be a lot more complicated than that.

Weiss, left, and Russo, right, in action! GIF from OUR Restroom.

Some businesses might not realize that single-stall bathrooms are better for everyone because they're too busy to even think about it.

Others might be intimidated by the potentially labyrinthine zoning laws or other legal requirements in their states (which are slowly being broken down, state-by-state, but are still pretty ridiculous).

For example, the Craft Beer Cellar in Eagle Rock, California, was ready and willing to take down their gendered bathroom signs. But, according to Russo, several city engineers pointed out a passage in the city's zoning codes that might be a problem (emphasis added) :

"At least one toilet room is required on the premises. If over three (3) employee or if selling beer, wine or liquor to be consumed on the premises, separate toilet rooms are required for each sex."

It wasn't clear if these bathrooms had to be marked for each sex or if two unisex bathrooms would suffice. And even when she went down to the city's Building Safety Department to speak to someone directly, Russo couldn't figure out a clear standard of enforcement for it either.

In the end, the worst-case scenario would be … someone might make them put the signs back up. Maybe. Some day. And that's exactly what Russo and her team are there for: to navigate the weird laws, so businesses don't have to, and then kick those old gendered signs to the curb.

GIF from OUR Restroom.

In a time of rampant bathroom discrimination, the work that OUR Restroom is doing is more important than ever.

"I hope that this is the first step of our work, and then we can go further into the bathroom conversation," Russo told Upworthy. "Obviously HB2 is a huge part of this."

OUR Restroom is still just getting started, but they've already done some phenomenal work in a short time — for people of all genders. In the meantime, cities like Philadelphia, Seattle, and New York have also started requiring gender neutral bathrooms.

"People who are made most vulnerable by this (trans and gender nonconforming people) shouldn't have to be the ones to have that conversation (unless we want to, or want to work with or for OUR Restroom, that is)," Blum said, explaining the importance of OUR Restroom for people like them.

We all deserve to be as happy and comfortable as Elmo. GIF from "Sesame Street."

When everybody can do their business in comfort, everybody wins.

As New York Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Queens) said, "Designating single stall bathrooms as all gender is an easy way to create a welcoming environment for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. As an added bonus, anyone who is looking for an unoccupied bathroom will now have more options."

See? Amazing how that works!


Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less
Images via Canva and Unsplash

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that being in a pandemic sucks.

However, we seem to be on different pages as to what sucks most about it. Many of us are struggling with being separated from our friends and loved ones for so long. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus, while others are dealing with ongoing health effects of their own illness. Millions are struggling with job loss and financial stress due to businesses being closed. Parents are drowning, dealing with their kids' online schooling and lack of in-person social interactions on top of their own work logistics. Most of us hate wearing masks (even if we do so diligently), and the vast majority of us are just tired of having to think about and deal with everything the pandemic entails.

Much has been made of the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is a good thing. We need to have more open conversations about mental health in general, and with everything so upside down, it's more important now than ever. However, it feels like pandemic mental health conversations have been dominated by people who want to justify anti-lockdown arguments. "We can't let the cure be worse than the disease," people say. Kids' mental health is cited as a reason to open schools, the mental health challenges of financial despair as a reason to keep businesses open, and the mental health impact of social isolation as a reason to ditch social distancing measures.

It's not that those mental health challenges aren't real. They most definitely are. But when we focus exclusively on the mental health impact of lockdowns, we miss the fact that there are also significant mental health struggles on the other side of those arguments.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

Keep Reading Show less

A vintage post-card collector on Flickr who goes by the username Post Man has kindly allowed us to share his wonderful collection of vintage postcards and erotica from the turn of the century. This album is full of exquisite photographs from around the world of a variety of people dressed in beautiful clothing in exotic settings. In an era well before the internet, these photographs would be one of the only ways you could could see how people in other countries looked and dressed.

Take a look at PostMan's gallery of over 90 vintage postcards on Flickr.

Keep Reading Show less
via Budweiser

Budweiser beer, and its low-calorie counterpart, Bud Light, have created some of the most memorable Super Bowl commercials of the past 37 years.

There were the Clydesdales playing football and the poor lost puppy who found its way home because of the helpful horses. Then there were the funny frogs who repeated the brand name, "Bud," "Weis," "Er."

We can't forget the "Wassup?!" ad that premiered in December 1999, spawning the most obnoxious catchphrase of the new millennium.

Keep Reading Show less