New Kansas City Airport Terminal Creates Controversy With Gender Neutral Bathrooms

I haven’t spent a lot of time focusing on the new Kansas City airport terminal. A lot of people went to see it, took photos and video, and it looks attractive (although entails somewhat longer walks to gates, so it isn’t entirely good).

The reason I shrug my shoulders a bit at the new Kansas City airport terminal, though, is because it’s Kansas City. You go there if you want barbecue that hides the quality of meat and the cooking technique with a thick tomato-based sauce.

Thirty years ago they were a US Air focus city with service to Baltimore; Charlotte; Washington National; Indianapolis; Wichita; Las Vegas; Los Angeles, New York LaGuardia; Orlando; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; San Diego; Seattle and more – plus Air Midwest (USAir Express) service to more than a dozen cities.

But now if you’re Kansas City and want to be part of the national conversation, you make sure your new airport terminal has… gender-neutral bathrooms.

Look, if you want to trigger a culture war, send men and women to the same restroom (or claim that there are precisely 73 different genders). Bathrooms and gender are a hot button issue.

Runway Girl defends gender neutral restrooms as inclusive, although I’d point out that now the mom would bring that 10 year old boy into the women’s restroom if they’re somehow not yet mature enough to go on their own.

Not only do these all-gender restrooms provide a welcoming and inclusive space for all travellers, regardless of their gender identity or gender expression, they can make travel easier for, say, a mom who doesn’t want to send her 10-year-old son into a men’s restroom alone.

Urinals get replaced by more stalls, and the stalls themselves have higher partitions. And here’s the thing: there are also plenty of gender-specific restrooms, and crucially more restroom opportunities in total than there were in the old terminal.

The airport acts as though they weren’t courting controversy in doing this. Kansas City was absolutely courting controversy, and that’s fine. Advocates see this as a giant own on their culture war opponents. The city of Kansas City has broadened the use of gender neutral restrooms since the airport was first planned with them.

On the one hand this ought to be something of a non-issue, and something some people will value. On the other I can understand why there are people who feel under attack. Each group though has different restrooms they can choose from at the new airport, but that won’t make Kansas City a US Air-turned-American Airlines focus city ever again. And it won’t help their barbecue live up to the hype or come close to what’s found in Central Texas.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Now, if only they’ll keep the restrooms clean by removing the towel waste and sanitizing the surfaces those using the restrooms will contact when using the facilities.
    Far more important to me is the distance between the area where I check in to where I deal with the TSA inspection, and finally go to the gate where I’m to board my flight.
    I’d also like to know what’s the distance between gates because I sometimes change planes at MCI. Here’s hoping that if those distances are Olympic-size there’ll be passenger-carrying carts to take us from one gate to the next.
    BTW, neither Kansas City nor Texas has the best BBQ. Food being the ultimate item where matters of taste are concerned, the would-be eater should remember that what’s one man’s Mede is another man’s Persian. In other words, one doesn’t argue about matters of taste.

  2. I’ve been in a few of these shared bathrooms recently, and the most important thing I’ve noticed is that men are much more likely to wash their hands after using them vs a men’s room and that is a major win for society.

  3. Oh come on Gary! It depends what spices are used in that tomato based sauce! Better than the indersnch thick layer of seasoned salt they use in Texas. It renders the longhorn meat un-eat-able! Besides, you can catch a Royals game after you pee in privacy…..

  4. Definitely a trash on Kansas City article rather than an intelligent conversation about a very controversial new airport.

  5. So men and women have to wash their hands in the same room. Otherwise, they’re still kept separate by floor to ceiling walls and doors. Whoa! That’s so controversial.

  6. I don’t see the issue. In Europe, South America, Asia…the restrooms are communal. The stalls have privacy from floor to ceiling and the doors lock. So what if I have to wash my hands next to someone of the opposite sex?

  7. Yeah, the whole article was an attempt to slam KC and to try to create a controversy where there really is none. The only people that will actually have an issue with it, are the people who have no lives and nothing better to do.

  8. The problem is, the walls don’t go from floor to ceiling, you can fully hear what’s going on in the stall beside you. I walked in the stall next to an elderly lady and then had a blowout, very embarrassing!! I’m all about inclusion, but not in the restroom.

  9. Unnecessary. Why is our coutry all of sudden ignoring natural biology of thousands of years. I don’t want my wife, daughters, or granddaughters anywhere near a man in a restroom. What a waste of money. Can’t wait until they have to expand men’s and women’s restrooms, and make these restrooms one or the other. Give it time.

  10. If sex is not an issue and inclusivity and efficiency is everything, then why are 99% of dressing rooms gender specific? Hmmm. Maybe people have done things together in genders for thousands of years for a legitimate reason. Maybe we aren’t just smarter than they are because WE are alive now and this is the current thing.
    Are women really phobic if they feel awkward knowing that a man has his penis out one foot away from them, separated only by a one inch partition wall? Maybe the better argument is: If you’re experiencing this, why AREN’T you feeling awkward? That would seem like a violation of healthy and normal boundaries. Perhaps the bigger truth is that a nation with a 70%+ porn rate and a long established Millennial and Gen-Z hookup culture, doesn’t actually have a firm grasp on what healthy sex and gender boundaries really are.
    To be fair and accurate “Going the bathroom” has been a private affair throughout all of history, has it not? Where are the history lessons in books on unisex bathroom facilities crowded with people? The more important word even is “private”. Privacy is at the heart of our guaranteed rights and our dignity itself. This is why one goes off in the woods somewhere to pee when camping, and why we aren’t all going off in the woods to the same spot together, mother, father, and children, at the same time. I don’t believe crowding all people in the same room and dividing them with one inch partition walls is true “privacy”, doors locking or not. Is this making sense yet?
    There is also a pandora’s box of problems that can occur when once common sense boundaries are broken, and consequences will eventually show up. What happens when a man doesn’t close the door and just pees in the toilet, as he normally would? Isn’t he technically exposing himself now to the public? Is he to be arrested and charged as a sex offender? If the stall door is open two inches, is it public exposure? What happens when a 10 year old girl hears a mans loud urine stream pounding into the toilet next to her? What about her thoughts and emotions? Are images conjured up in the mind from hearing that? What happens when voyeurs see this as an opportunity? You hear about those men being caught in traditional situations, what now? How could a woman comfortably adjust her makeup in a mirror with men coming and going? What happens at 3am when only one woman and one man are in the that bathroom, and he struggles with violent thoughts of rape or assault? Now in an airport the people are generally more successful, less prone to be criminal, less uncivilized, so chances really are rare that a big pandora’s box issue would emerge. But that is NOT an excuse to say “see there are no problems with this”. Try employing the same unisex restrooms at every Wal-Mart and see what happens.
    When taken out of the context of our ever increasing “progressive” society and stood on it’s own, this unisex bathroom idea feels innocent with wisdom revealing underlying problems. But put back IN the stream of ever increasing progressive change and looked at through THAT lens, you can see a picture of Inclusivity Creep. Inclusivity for whatever reason, appears to have surpassed the valor and trajectory of Joan of Arc, Napoleon, and the holy crusades. Inclusivity apparently is now the high moral ground, anything traditional in it’s way be damned, and we now must even build airports with inclusivity in bathrooms so that when entering Kansas City of the midwest, we can declare our wonderful inclusivity right at the city gate.

  11. First time in this airport with gender neutral bathrooms. As a farm boy from MISSOURI. I can’t believe demon possessed demoncrats used by satan got in this state. People wonder what’s wrong with America. Crazy!!

  12. The people who seem to think that terms like “all gender” are not an attack on anyone are simply deluded. When someone comes in with a political agenda and says “now we’re going to do it MY way and screw you for your provincial thinking” they are actually making a claim and an attack. Now of course they think they have the moral high ground, but so do the people who think there are only two genders. But at least the people who think there are only two genders know that they are making a claim. It’s the social justice warriors who are blind to their own intellectual violence against the people they disagree with…. as the comments above indicate… “Have no lives” etc. People who are hypersensitive to “microaggression” are nonetheless completely insensitive to the macroaggression against the people they disagree with.

  13. I actually just used one of these with our two young girls. Totally fine, anyone complaining has a victim complex or other perception issue.

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