Austin passes gender-neutral bathroom ordinance

| March 15, 2017

Using public restrooms will no longer bring anxiety to the transgender community in Austin. The city has approved a resolution which requires all single stall public bathrooms to be gender-neutral.

The city has become the first in Texas to enact an ordinance that is aimed to address public restroom issues plaguing the transgender community, people with disabilities, and parents with children of the opposite sex. The ordinance, however, does not address multiple stall bathrooms.

Gender-neutral single-stall public bathroom.

Austin city adopts single stall gender-neutral bathrooms for the ease of transgender community. From laughingsquid.

A countrywide campaign for safe access to bathrooms has been started by the Office of Human Rights in Washington, DC where people can tweet the name and location of businesses that contain one-stall public bathrooms. People can also register a complaint on the organization’s official website.

The campaign with the tagline ‘Public bathrooms are challenging enough: help make them a little bit easier for transgender people’ encourages people to help increase the number of gender-neutral restrooms in the district.

Not everyone supports the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms. Although the ordinance is directed only at single stall bathrooms, concerns about hygiene and safety of women have also been raised. As one of the customers at Epoch Coffee says, “Most men do not wash their hands. At businesses, it provides for the women a cleaner atmosphere when they have their own restroom.”

A paper by activist Sheila Jefferys mentions that sharing bathroom with men places women at a higher risk of harassment and assault. She writes that a Google search of ‘upskirts in bathrooms,’ produces 6,630,000 results which are mostly pictures of women photographed by men inside toilets. She also adds that women face sexual harassment from men dressed up in women’s clothes in restrooms.

At the same time, there are many who don’t mind restrooms being made gender-neutral. A 2001 survey conducted in San Francisco concluded that 95 percent of people are open to the idea of single-stall, gender-neutral bathrooms and 79 percent do not have an issue with multi-stall, gender-neutral bathrooms.

Council member Riley sees this as just an extension of the concept of sharing bathrooms at home. “In my mind, this is basic and straightforward. Really, we’re just extending the concept (in home bathrooms) to public restrooms,” he said.

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Category: Restrooms

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