Metro Weekly

Baltimore Museum of Art unveils gender-neutral restrooms dedicated to John Waters

Waters said he was excited to be part of a "much-needed public elimination upgrade"

John Waters — Photo: Greg Gorman

Legendary writer and filmmaker John Waters and trans activist Elizabeth Coffey unveiled the Baltimore Museum of Art’s first-ever all-gender restrooms last week.

Anyone can use the restrooms, which feature not pink flamingos but instead solid accent-colored walls and doors that go from floor to ceiling. Humorously named after Waters, the new john is poised to serve not only as a tourist attraction for his hometown, but also as a celebration of trans rights.

Last fall, Waters agreed to posthumously donate much of his private art collection to the BMA, which would make the museum the largest repository of his visual artwork.

At the time, the trustees didn’t think he was serious about having the restrooms named after him. And at the time, the pop trash culture icon hadn’t asked for them to be all-gender.

The idea “just naturally evolved,” he said at a private reception and dedication ceremony, Baltimore Fishbowl reports.

“When I heard the new restrooms could be remodeled for all genders, I was even more excited,” Waters said. “I could be part of a much-needed public elimination upgrade. Finally, we could all go to the bathroom together in full privacy. That’s what I call progress!”

He continued: “Public restrooms make all people nervous. They’re unpredictable, sometimes attract perverts, and they’re fueled by accidents, just like my favorite contemporary art.”

Coffey, an artist, community leader and advocate for LBGTQ senior housing who also starred in Waters’ Pink Flamingos, spoke at the unveiling, where she became the first person to use the new restrooms.

Waters said he owed Coffey, the first person he knew who transitioned in Baltimore, “big time” for helping make Pink Flamingos “so successful.”

At the event, Coffey stressed that the restrooms, which officially open Dec. 12, are an important stride for institutions like the BMA, particularly at a time when people are “attacked,” “murdered,” and “driven out of a place where they just want to go to the bathroom.”

“Yes, a lot of this is funny. It’s playful,” she said. “But what I’m really excited about is that we’re going to get to do it together…. Can you think of anything any more elementary than just going to the bathroom?”

Trans people “don’t pose any kind of threat,” she told the Fishbowl, and “just want to pee.”

“People can come to the museum and they can enjoy the art. They can enjoy the gardens. They can enjoy the sculpture,” she said. “Why on earth should they have any type of difficulty because they want to use the restroom?”

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