Public bathrooms are never enjoyable, but for transgender people and many others, using a public bathroom can be a highly stressful and even dangerous experience. In the District of Columbia, we are attempting to reduce that stress by making every single-stall public bathroom in the District gender-neutral. It’s the law,* but currently many businesses are unaware of the requirement, and we need your help to let them know. If you see a public bathroom with one stall that is not gender-neutral, just tweet us the business name and location using #safebathroomsDC, or fill out our five question form. It takes just 20 seconds to play a part in making DC a more enjoyable place for transgender and other communities!
If you aren’t quite sure why gender-neutral bathrooms are important, or want to learn more about the communities this can affect, just hang with us and read more below!
What Can I Do?
If you see a single-stall public bathroom at a restaurant or business, let us know and we will notify the business owner or manager to make sure it gets changed! There are three simple ways you can let us know:
- Tweet us the name of the business, its location, and ideally a photo of the bathroom door using the hashtag #safebathroomsDC. You can also add our Twitter handle: @dchumanrights
- Submit a quick online form on our website.
- Call our office at (202) 481-3773 and ask to submit a bathroom complaint
We will notify the business their bathroom(s) needs to be gender-neutral and follow-up to make sure it happens!
The campaign advertisements lighten the mood on a serious topic by showing challenging or frustrating bathroom situations with the tagline: "Public bathrooms are challenging enough: Help make them a little bit easier for transgender people." To see a larger version of each ad, just click!
Why Does Gender-Neutral Matter?
Bathrooms without a designated gender benefit a variety of individuals who are not comfortable or who face mistreatment when accessing gender-specific bathrooms. This includes:
Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People
Transgender and gender non-conforming people often face stress, anxiety and mistreatment when accessing the gendered bathroom that is appropriate for them. Providing access to a private, non-gendered stall can reduce or even eliminate this burden.
People with Disabilities or Personal Attendants
People with disabilities or others who have personal attendants of a different gender can run into problems when accessing gendered bathrooms. Gender-neutral bathrooms can provide a more welcoming and comfortable situation for two people of different genders.
People with Children
Parents or guardians with children of a different gender can encounter misunderstanding when accessing gender-specific bathrooms. Removing this potential can easily be addressed with a gender-neutral bathroom.
We've all waited outside an occupied bathroom while the bathroom for the gender we don't identify with was empty. Gender-neutral bathrooms are more efficient, allowing you to avoid that unnecessary wait.
Why Aren’t Businesses Already Following the Law?
The vast majority of business owners whose establishments have “male” or “female” single-stall bathrooms do not mean any harm. Most are simply unaware of the regulations or the effect gender-specific stalls have on particular people, and are happy to make the bathrooms gender-neutral when notified. Additionally, until early 2013, conflicting regulations on the need for gender-neutral bathrooms created confusion among some business owners, and prevented OHR from fully enforcing the regulations. Despite the regulations now being aligned to require gender-neutral bathrooms, many businesses are not yet aware of the update.
Types of Signs
To make a single-stall bathroom compliant, all that is needed is a sign that says “restroom” or other notification that explains the bathroom is open to people of all genders. Below are some examples.
Casa Ruby: Casa Ruby is a multicultural center and safe space serving the Latino LGB & Transgender communities of any race, color, or economic background in Washington, DC, MD, VA Where all are welcome.
2822 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001 phone: 202.355.5155
DC Center: The DC Center is a central meeting and organizing space for the LGBT community in DC
2000 14th St NW, Suite 105, Washington, DC, 20009 phone: 202.682.2245
DC Trans Coalition: The DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) is a volunteer, grassroots, community-based organization dedicated to fighting for human rights, dignity, and liberation for transgender, transsexual, and gender-diverse (hereafter: trans) people in the District of Columbia.
HIPS: HIPS promotes the health, rights, and dignity of individuals and communities impacted by sexual exchange and/or drug use due to choice, coercion, or circumstance. HIPS provides compassionate harm reduction services, advocacy, and community engagement that is respectful, non-judgmental, and affirms and honors individual power and agency.
1309 Rhode Island Ave, NE #2B, Washington, DC 20018 phone: 202.232.8150
SMYAL: For many young people, SMYAL provides the only safe space in their world. LGBTQ youth are at greater risk than their heterosexual peers for many negative health outcomes, including HIV infection, violence, substance abuse, physical abuse, homelessness, and suicide.
410 7th Street SE, Washington, DC 20003 phone: 202.546.5940
Whitman-Walker Health: Whitman-Walker Health is a Washington DC community health center specializing in HIV/AIDS care and lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender care.
1701 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 phone: 202.745.7000
* All covered entities with single-occupancy restroom facilities shall use gender-neutral signage for those facilities (for example, by replacing signs that indicate “Men” and “Women” with signs that say “Restroom”). See D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 4. § 802.2 (2006).