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“Safe Bathrooms DC” Aims to Increase Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

Thursday, April 3, 2014

“Safe Bathrooms DC” Aims to Increase Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

Innovative reporting method uses Twitter (#safebathroomsDC) to accept complaints

Thursday, April 3, 2014

CONTACT: Elliot Imse, Director of Policy & Communications – 202.481.3773; elliot.imse@dc.gov

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Public bathrooms can present many challenges: inevitably long lines, empty paper towel holders, and faucets that manage to spray more water onto your clothes than into your hands. Yet these challenges are trivial when compared to those some transgender and gender non-conforming people face when using gender-specific public bathrooms. Fear of harassment or violence can create a stressful experience, and many people report scouring the neighborhood until they can locate a gender-neutral bathroom. Now, the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) is asking community members to help make it a bit easier for the transgender and gender non-conforming community, with today’s launch of its Safe Bathrooms DC campaign.

Aimed at rapidly increasing the number of single-occupancy gender-neutral public bathrooms in the District, the campaign features photos of common bathroom challenges, and aims to encourage people to report non-compliant bathrooms using Twitter or the OHR website. The District is one of the few jurisdictions in the nation that requires all single-occupancy bathrooms at restaurants, businesses or other public places to be gender-neutral, without labels such as “male” or “female.” While in the past non-compliant bathrooms could be reported to OHR through the traditional complaint submission method, now community members can quickly alert OHR by tweeting the business name and location using the hashtag #safebathroomsDC, or by submitting a short five question form on the OHR website.

“We are encouraging people to take 30 seconds to notify us via Twitter or our website when a single-occupancy public bathroom is not gender-neutral, so we can get it changed,” said OHR Director Mónica Palacio. “By working together, we can ensure the transgender community and others who prefer using gender-neutral bathrooms have an increased number of safe places to use.”

To promote the campaign, a series of attention-grabbing advertisements were released with the tagline: “Public bathrooms are challenging enough. Help make them a bit easier for our transgender community.” Although the campaign advertisements are focused on the benefit of gender-neutral bathrooms to the transgender and gender non-conforming community, people with personal attendants of the opposite gender and parents with children of the opposite gender also frequently benefit from gender-neutral bathrooms.

The advertisements are available on the campaign website at ohr.dc.gov/bathrooms. Additional information for businesses about the gender-neutral bathroom regulations, and resources for individuals interested in learning more about transgender issues, is also available at ohr.dc.gov/bathrooms. The campaign launch event was held on Thursday, April 3 at Casa Ruby, a community partner for the campaign.

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About the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights

The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) was established to eradicate discrimination, increase equal opportunity and protect human rights for persons who live in or visit the District of Columbia. The agency enforces local and federal human rights laws, including the DC Human Rights Act, by providing a legal process to those who believe they have been discriminated against. OHR also proactively enforces human rights in the District through Director’s Inquiries, which allow it to identify and investigate practices and policies that may be discriminatory.