Equal Access to Public Restrooms

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Transgender Rights Toolkit: A Legal Guide For Trans People and Their Advocates

When you gotta go, you gotta go. Whether at work, in a restaurant or passing through a train station, pretty much everyone needs to stop into a restroom at some point while away from the comforts of home. But this simple routine is anything but that for many transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) people.

Transgender is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender identity, one’s inner sense of being male or female, differs from their assigned or presumed sex at birth; gender-nonconforming people don’t meet society’s expectations of gender roles. For both groups, even just walking through the door of a public bathroom can be a stressful, scary experience. Th e mere possibility of hostile remarks from other bathroom goers, questions from store owners or mall security or arbitrary restrictions from employers can be so frightening that many just “hold it.”

TGNC people get harassed in other situations too, but public restrooms tend to invite extra scrutiny of people’s appearance based on comparisons to stereotypes about how men and women are supposed to look or act.

February 1, 2011