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January 2018

Mountain Spy :: January 2018

Do you have a non-binary bathroom?

Written by Dave Meeker | 0 comment


Only recently have businesses and public places begun adopting the idea of non-binary bathroom options. It’s becoming more common in schools. Still, none of the resorts called had a non-binary bathroom option. I didn’t expect everyone to know what I was talking about, so plenty of leeway was given there. As expected, some resort staffers made it awkward. Other folks made it very clear they dislike the entire topic, and that is a mistake—this is a societal “thing” whether you like it or not. And yet others did a great job, despite varying degrees of familiarity with my question.

BTW, this question came from Carolyn Stimpson at Wachusett Mountain, Mass. The resort received a phone call from a guest asking this exact question, and afterward she called us to see if it was Mountain Spy. It wasn’t then, but it was soon after. Thanks, Carolyn!

Hey, guest service folks. Yeah, you. Send me some questions you’ve heard from guests that would make a good Mountain Spy ( It doesn’t take long to do, and can be anonymous. If I use one of your questions, I promise I won’t call you.

First contact: Female, operator.
SAM: Asked for guest services.
Staff: We don’t have a department called guest services. Can I ask what the call is regarding?
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: We do have an employee bathroom in the lodge that someone in a non-binary position would be welcome to use.
SAM: OK. Cool. Is that something we’d need to get special permission to use, or how does that work?
Staff: Oh, no. It’s kind of in a back hallway, but a staff member would be happy to show you where it is.
SAM: Terrific. Thanks very much.
Staff: You’re welcome. Have a nice day.

Rating: 8
Comment: First, no guest services? How odd. Otherwise, she didn’t even stutter at the question, and politely offered an immediate solution.

Mountain #2, ME

Answering the phone: Automated machine. Chose guest services.
First contact: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Oh, geez. That’s a great question. I’ve never been asked that before. Let me think.
SAM: Yeah, I’m just calling ahead to see if there is one, or if there’s a policy about it if not.
Staff: Absolutely, I know it can be tough at some places. But we don’t have a policy here. And we don’t have a bathroom specifically labeled as non-binary, but there is one that isn’t men’s or women’s at X. I mean, they can use whichever one they’re more comfortable with, I think. But the one at X isn’t either, so that could work.
SAM: It sure would. Thanks!
Staff: Yeah, no problem. See you this winter!

Rating: 9
Comment: He was genuine about the whole thing, and genuinely helpful. Nice work.

Mountain #3, BC

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose guest services.
First contact: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: So, what do you mean?
SAM: A member of our family doesn’t identify as a male or female, and a non-binary bathroom is one that isn’t gender specific. I’m just calling ahead to see how that is handled there, so we know.
Staff: Um, there isn’t anything, uhh, like that. I mean, if that was the case, um, they could use one of the staff bathrooms, but there’s no specific, ah, binary bathroom, er, washroom. Sorry. But if that was something that would be an issue on the main floor, umm, you know, staff bathrooms aren’t always very busy, so, ah, they could be used for that. But there’s no specific ones, like, for the public.
SAM: OK. Sometimes at other places they’ve said it’s cool to use whichever they’re more comfortable with. Would that be something that’s OK, or?
Staff: (interrupting) Yeah, yeah. Whatever, yeah. Whatever works. Will that be everything?
SAM: Yup.
Staff: Right. Have a good one.

Rating: 3
Comment: This poor guy. I was uncomfortable for him. If you don’t know, ask.

Mountain #4, CA

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose guest services.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: I’m sorry, what?
SAM: A non-binary bathroom. One of our family members doesn’t identify as either male or female, so...
Staff: OH! I see, I see, I see. Um, no. We are not up to date like that yet. I do apologize. We just have the normal standard bathrooms.
Staff: What do you call that again? Just so I know for the next time. Non-binary?
SAM: Yeah, there are a lot of different terms for it, but that’s a common one.
Staff: Oh, I understand. Uh huh.
SAM: So, how would it work? Is there any policy? Could they use whichever they’re more comfortable with?
Staff: Um, I believe so. Pfft. Ahh. I don’t know really what the laws are for that kind of stuff, but, ah. Let me check. Can you hang on?
SAM: Sure (waiting).
Staff: (after about 10 seconds) Whatever they feel comfortable using, they can use.
SAM: Terrific. Thanks.
Staff: You’re welcome. Have a great day, OK?

Rating: 5
Comment: Tough score for this one, because she wasn’t rude or uncomfortable. She was honest. But not the most sensitive.

Mountain #5, MT

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Um, we just have the women’s and men’s bathroom.
SAM: OK. (pause) So this is for a member of our family who doesn’t identify as male or female.
Staff: (very quietly) Yeah.
SAM: So, use whichever they’re more comfortable with?
Staff: (very, very quietly) Umm. I would think so. Whatever they would use, when, um, out and about, you know, would be sufficient (basically whispering now).
Staff: Alrighty. Mmm hmm. Bye.

Rating: 2
Comment: Awkward! What’s with the whispering?

Mountain #6, NC

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose customer service.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: What do you mean, exactly?
SAM: One of our family members doesn’t identify as either male or female, so I’m just calling ahead to see if...
Staff: (Interrupting) Unfortunately, we do not.
Staff: They are labeled ladies and mens. (silence)
SAM: Sooo, can she use whichever one she’s more comfortable using?
SAM: Is that OK?
Staff: Uhhh. I, ah, honestly I’ve never gotten this question. I would love to find that answer for you. The person who would have the answer has already left for the day. Can I have your email address and I can send her your question and she will get back to you.
SAM: Can I have her email address and reach out directly?
Staff: Sure. (gives email address, but I had to ask for her name)
SAM: Alright. Thank you.

Rating: 2
Comment: Points for finally offering to ask someone who might know the answer. Otherwise, she made me uncomfortable for even asking.

Mountain #7, WV

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Say that again. What are you looking for?
SAM: Just looking to see if there’s a non-binary bathroom at the ski area. A family member of ours doesn’t identify as male or female.
Staff: (impatiently) Uh huh.
SAM: (uncomfortable pause) Uhh. So, at her school there are bathrooms that aren’t gender specific. So I just wanted to see how that works there just to know what to expect.
Staff: Ours are male and female. We don’t have anything special for that, um, that I know of (snickers). I mean, I haven’t seen anything different, OK?
Staff: Everything I’ve seen is just male, female.
SAM: OK, gotcha.
Staff: You got me? (condescendingly snickers again)
SAM: I sure do. Have a great winter.
Staff: Uh huh. Buh-bye.

jan18 mountain spy thumbs downRating: 0
Comment: Whoa. It’s pretty clear where this lady stands on the topic. If you’re in guest service, though, please leave your beliefs at home and just answer the question. If you really aren’t comfortable answering it, find someone who is.

Mountain #8, VT

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose general info.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Let me check on that. Can I put you on hold so I can get you to someone who can help with that?
SAM: Sure thing. (waiting)
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Re-stated question.
Staff: I’m sorry, say that one more time. What kind of bathroom?
SAM: A non-binary bathroom. A member of our family doesn’t identify as either male or female.
Staff: Oh, totally got you.
SAM: Cool. So I’m just calling ahead to see what the situation is so we’re prepared.
Staff: I totally understand where you’re coming from, and I understand that in a lot of places it’s really strict. But I will tell you that up here we do employ quite a few people who are in that same situation and they can go in whichever one they want. I don’t want to misspeak, but does that make sense?
SAM: Yeah, totally.
Staff: (Proceeds to explain further that it’s a comfortable atmosphere at the resort, and reinforces that she’s confident individuals can go in whichever bathroom they feel most comfortable.) I’m almost positive that’s the case, but just to be sure let me check with some other folks. Do you mind hanging on for one second?
SAM: Sure thing, thanks.
(Waiting, but the staff member came back to let me know she was still finding out and apologized for the delay.)
Staff: Hi! I’m 100 percent correct, ha! It’s whatever the person is most comfortable with! We don’t have a policy either way, so come up here and have a good time.
SAM: OK, great. Thanks!
Staff: See you soon!

jan18 mountain spy thumbs upRating: 10
Comment: From start to finish, this was handled very well. The first girl who picked up immediately recognized she didn’t know the answer, and sought someone who did. And the girl who did know the answer made sure it was correct before letting me off the phone. Well done!

Identity revealed: Stratton Mountain


While conducting these calls, an alarming number of resorts didn’t even pick up the phone when I called during normal operating hours. That includes some big resorts, too. Resorts that should have plenty of well-trained staff ready to answer guest inquiries. In one day, major resorts in Maine, New York, and Wyoming (four resorts total) all sent me to an answering machine. Not just once, either. I understand people need to leave their post for a few minutes for whatever reason, so I made sure to call back a little while after the first attempt, and still couldn’t get a human being. And I tried calling another ski area in Michigan, but neither of the numbers on its website work.

Despite living in an age when many people prefer to communicate via text message and get all their information from the internet, many others still prefer talking to a human being. Resorts should not lose sight of that, and be prepared for it.