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!


Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."