When you see this sign, what’s your first reaction?
Progressive? Hyper politically-correct? Radical? Polarizing? For the nearly one million people in the U.S. who identify as transgender, it can provide relief from the daily struggle they face just to use the restroom. This gender-inclusive sign promotes equal access to public restrooms, easing the discrimination that many transgender citizens face.
Consider a recent situation. Idaho transgender woman Ally Robledo was slapped with a trespassing citation for using a female public restroom. Robledo said she had gone through a gender reassignment surgery, but some were still uncomfortable with her presence. She maintains that using male restrooms led to feelings of embarrassment and harassment, saying that she sometimes even feared for her safety. Robledo said, “I’m a female trapped in a man’s body…Getting the no trespassing order for a public restroom was really painful.” The sad truth is that transgender citizens are forced to navigate a minefield for a simple act that nearly everyone takes for granted.
Still, legislators have proposed bills that cause complications for transgender people. Arizona State Senator John Kavanagh proposed a bill that prohibited people from entering a “public restroom, bathroom, shower, bath, dressing room, or locker room” if the sex designation of that facility did not match their birth certificate. Kavanagh later amended the colloquially dubbed “Show Me Your Papers Before You Go Potty” bill to shield businesses from civil or criminal liability. The suggested bill isn’t explicitly targeting transgender people, but it does make things more complex for people who want to use the bathroom best for them.
The fight for transgender rights remains obscured; 3 in 10 Americans are still not sure what it means to be transgender. The Oxford dictionary defined a transgender person as, “a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender, but combines or moves in between.” Since the definition of a transgender person is indefinite, a sign should feature a broad representation of gender qualities.
MyDoorSign’s new signs, based on a Parsons student’s original designs and profiled on the famous Humans of New York website, are exceptionally inclusive, displaying multiple gender symbols to show equal restroom access.
Other kinds of gender-neutral signs can be found, but they’re not without problems. Many gender-neutral bathroom signs show a male, female, and a hybrid gender sign, which many argue merely creates a third gender and defies the concept of being ‘gender-neutral.’
Psychotherapist Dr. Jean Malpas, the Director of the Gender and Family Project for the Ackerman Institute for the Family in New York weighed in. He maintains that gender-neutral signs are not new concepts. “I noticed that ‘the Modern,’ the restaurant attached to the Museum of Modern Art, also had an all gender bathroom, and nobody, younger and older, male and female patrons, seemed to mind at all.”
Malpas says a sign with a third gender may be “stigmatizing” and “isolating,” missing the point of having a sign that neutralizes gender. “The point is that gender depends on one’s identity, and not on the sex they were born in or assigned at birth.”