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!


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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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