Public restrooms of the future

**This article was originally published on the S.J. Quinney College of Law blog.

What will the public restroom of the future look like?

Perhaps all stalls will be fully enclosed and self-cleaning, as some are in England and France.[1] Maybe they will run on solar power and be made of vandalism-resistant material, as are the loos in Portland.[2] In a perfect future world, toilet paper rolls will always be in the correct position (with the end of the roll hanging over the exterior),[3] and the default position of the toilet seat will be down, as many progressive Germans insist.[4]

And maybe, in ten or fifteen years, public restrooms in the United States will be gender-neutral.

Some legal experts, architects, and social-equality activists are working to ensure that non-binary restrooms will at least be an option in the future, but they acknowledge it will not happen tomorrow.

PHOTO CREDIT: S.J. Quinney College of Law

Professor Terry Kogan.

“A realistic goal for the foreseeable future is to change laws to allow for more inclusive restrooms around the country,” says Professor Terry Kogan, who teaches in the areas of sexuality, copyright law, legal philosophy, trust and estates, art law, and contracts at the College of Law. “That’s a good goal: inclusive restrooms. There are individuals for whom there are currently few safe and accessible public restrooms.”

Kogan has spent the last decade advocating for the rights of transgender people and working to change both cultural norms and building codes that currently mandate sex-separated public restrooms. The recipient of the inaugural Pioneer Award from LGBT and Allied Lawyers of Utah, Kogan is considered one of the luminaries of the LGBTQ community in Utah.

“There is no doubt we are stronger today because of his tireless dedication,” says Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, a nonprofit advocacy group that works to secure equal rights and protections for the LGBTQ community. “Terry contributed to a legacy that a whole new generation has now inherited.”

Kathryn Stockton, associate vice president for the Office for Equity and Diversity and dean of the School for Cultural and Social Transformation at the University of Utah, credits Kogan with more than just leadership: “For all of us who have been LGBTQ on campus, we’ve needed each other—and Terry has always been a very tender friend amid our passionate efforts here.” Describing Kogan’s work to retrofit bathrooms at the U, Stockton adds, “To have one of the most important people working on inclusive restroom issues in the country, and even outside the country, as a law professor here? That’s very exciting for us.”


[1] Durant Imboden, “Sanisette Public Toilets,” Paris for Visitors, https://europeforvisitors.com/paris/articles/paris-public-toilets.htm.

[2] John Metcalfe, “Why Portland’s Public Toilets Succeeded Where Others Failed,” CityLab, January 23, 2012, https://www.citylab.com/design/2012/01/why-portlands-public-toilets-succeeded-where-others-failed/1020/.

[3] Megan Willett, “124-year-old Patent Solves the ‘Over Versus Under’ Toilet Paper Roll Debate,” Business Insider, March 19, 2015, https://www.businessinsider.com/patent-shows-right-way-to-hang-toilet-paper-2015-3.

[4] “Sitzpinkeln: Germany’s dark secret,” Berlinerisch, March 7, 2016, http://berlinerisch.com/blog/2016/03/07/sitzpinkeln-germanys-dark-secret/.