New bathroom finder app locates transgender-friendly facilities

| March 16, 2017

A recently-released online directory will inform transgender people of transgender-friendly bathrooms, reports The Advocate. Known as Refuge Restrooms, the bathroom finder was created by Teagan Widmer, and it draws on an open-source database of more than 4,000 restrooms known to be safe for transgender people. Widmer explained to The Advocate, it’s simply “a web application that indexes and maps safe restrooms for transgender, intersex, and gender-nonconforming individuals.”

Finding a safe bathroom is a hot-button issue — and a major concern for transgender people. While there have been movements to provide gender-neutral restrooms at campuses throughout the country, such as at Concordia College and the University of Houston-Downtown, there have also been legislative pushes to prevent people from using gender-specific bathrooms throughout the country.

Gender-neutral restrooms are an ideal option for trans people who feel uncomfortable using single-gender restrooms. Available at MyDoorSign.

Gender-neutral restrooms are an ideal option for trans people who feel uncomfortable using single-gender restrooms. Available at MyDoorSign.

For instance, Arizona lawmaker John Kavanaugh last year introduced a bill to make it a misdemeanor for a transgender person to use a public restroom that didn’t match the sex stated on their birth certificate. In Utah, the state legislature introduced a bill mandating physical exams for transgender students wishing to use gender-specific restrooms at odds with their gender identity.

Discomfort is one factor. As Widmer told The Advocate, “trans people face a unique set of complications when it comes to bathroom usage. I know for me, when I was early in my transition, I didn’t feel comfortable in either bathroom. I no longer felt comfortable in the men’s restroom, but I didn’t feel comfortable in the women’s bathroom either.”

Yet safety is an even more compelling concern; in one 2010 case cited by Widmer, a transgender student was attacked in a California State University – Long Beach campus bathroom, and the word “It” was slashed into his chest. “Many trans folk are left feeling really unsafe. If I go into the women’s room, I might get yelled at. If I go into the men’s room, I might get assaulted. And that brings up violence,” explained Widmer.

Refuge Restrooms allows users to search by location and map trans-friendly restrooms. Users are also able to rate their experience. It draws upon a previous database of safe restrooms known as Safe2Pee, which has since been phased out. Notes the site, “Refuge seeks to, once again, provide a valuable resource for trans and queer individuals who find themselves in need of a safe restroom to use.”

People in the middle of a transition may be especially vulnerable. “For me, it’s kind of common sense that trans kids should be allowed to use the bathroom they would feel the safest and the most comfortable in,” explained Widmer. “It’s also really important for those who maybe early in transition will self-select themselves out of the gendered bathroom they identify with for their own comfort, and who do not desire to use the other bathroom because of fear of violence.”

Though there are hopes for eventually developing an app, currently the Refuge Restrooms database is free and available by accessing refugerestrooms.org.

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Category: Restrooms

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