The media sure loves to talk about trans people and public bathrooms. And in spite of all the transphobic right wing propaganda, there are important reasons to talk about trans people in public bathrooms too. In the past few months alone, the DC Trans Coalition has been approached by trans individuals that have nearly lost their jobs, been ejected from public restaurants, forced to drop out of school and harassed by police officers, all for trying to exercise their legal right to use the bathroom where they feel the safest and most comfortable.
Below, you will find the text of a fact sheet produced by DCTC summarizing the results of our survey on gender-segregated spaces in DC. Below that, you will also find some reflections on what this data means along with expanded statistics from the survey about employment, income, access to health care and so on. See our page on Reports and Research for more studies and data on the trans community in DC.
In October 2006, regulations to enforce anti-discrimination protections for gender identity or expression went into effect in the District of Columbia. These regulations include specific protections for people to access and use gender-segregated public facilities consistent with their gender identity. The regulations also included a mandate for the creation of more gender-neutral public restrooms in the District. While these regulations are an important step forward, they have not yet been fully implemented and have been threatened by District agencies.
In November 2008, DCTC launched a survey to gather information about people’s experiences accessing or using gender-segregated public facilities. The results reveal that people in our community have experienced significant problems with these facilities. These problems have impacted people’s education, employment, health, and participation in public life. The regulations of enforcement for the DC Human Rights Act must be fully implemented to address problems our community faces.
The survey collected responses from 93 people who self-identify as trans and/or gender non-conforming and asked about experiences they have had with gender-segregated public facilities in DC, such as restrooms, locker rooms, and public housing facilities. Out of 93 respondents, 65 (70 percent) reported experiencing problems as follows:
- 63 respondents (68 percent) have been denied access to, verbally harassed in, and/or physically assaulted in public bathrooms.
- 17 respondents (18 percent) have been denied access to, verbally harassed in, and/or physically assaulted in locker rooms.h
- 19 respondents (20 percent) have been denied access to and/or verbally harassed in dressing rooms or changing rooms.
- Out of the 8 respondents who have been housed in a public housing facility in DC (such as a homeless shelter, DC jail, or treatment facility), 6 respondents (75 percent) experienced physical assault, verbal abuse, denial of medical care and/or hormones, harassment, and/or being treated worse than others by staff.
Impact of Reported Problems
This survey assessed the impact of problems with gender-segregated public facilities in four areas: education, employment, health, and participation in public life.
- 13 of 31 respondents (42 percent) who attended school in DC reported being denied access and/or verbally harassed in gender-segregated facilities at school.
- 3 respondents (10 percent) reported these incidents negatively impacted their education in the following ways: caused excessive absences, poor performance, had to change schools, and/or dropped out of school.
- 16 of 60 respondents (27 percent) who have worked in DC reported being denied access and/or verbally harassed in gender-segregated facilities at work.
- 8 respondents (13 percent) reported these incidents negatively impacted their employment in the following ways: caused excessive tardiness, poor performance, had to change job, and/or had to quit job.
- 53 respondents (54 percent) reported having physical problems from trying to avoid using public bathrooms, such as “holding it,” dehydration, urinary tract infection, kidney infection, and other kidney-related problems.
- 8 respondents (9 percent) have avoided going to a hospital, healthcare facility, or doctor’s office because those facilities have gender-segregated restrooms.
Participation in Public Life:
- 54 respondents (58 percent) reported that they have avoided going out in public and 28 respondents (30 percent) reported not attending a specific event, both due to a lack of safe public restroom facilities.
- 37 respondents (38 percent) reported avoiding particular public places due to a lack of safe restroom facilities. The places respondents most frequently avoided include retail stores, restaurants, gyms, and bars (including gay bars).
1) DC must fully implement the enforcement regulations adopted in October 2006 for the “gender identity or expression” provision of the DC Human Rights Act.
2) The new DC Department of Corrections Operations Memorandum must be fully implemented with regular review and revision to improve effectiveness.
A total of 69 (74%) of our respondents identified as white; 20 (22%) as black/African American; 4 (4%) Latina/Hispanic; 3 (3%) as Native American; 5 (5%) as Asian/Pacific Islander; and 1 (1%) as Arab/Middle Eastern. Since respondents were able to mark more than one racial identification, 63 (67%) identified themselves as only white.
58 respondents identified as transgender, 26 as transsexual and 36 as genderqueer. (There were more possibilities listed, including but not limited to androgynous, masculine woman, feminine man, third gender, two spirit, crossdresser and drag queen, and respondents were able to check multiple answers.) 16 identified themselves as male-to-female and 36 as female-to-male. 60 respondents were assigned female at birth, and 40 were assigned male at birth. This would seem to indicate that trans women were underrepresented in the data.
34 (37%) were aged 18-24; 30 (32%) were aged 25-34; 15 (16%) aged 35-44; 8 (9%) aged 45-54; 5 (5%) aged 55-64 and 1 (1%) was aged over 65. Thus, our data is also extremely skewed toward young people.
15 (16%) of respondents were unemployed, 46 (49%) were part-time employed, 24 (26%) were full-time and 8 (9%) responded they had another form of income besides full or part time employment. 2 (2%) respondents were homeless, 10 (11%) owned homes, with the rest renting, living rent free or living in a college dorm.
Incomes were as follows:
- 10 (11%) : no annual income
- 17 (18%) : under $5,000
- 8 (9%) : $5,000 – 9,999
- 7 (8%) : $10,000 -19,999
- 7 (8%) : $20,000 – 29,999
- 10 (11%) : $30,000 – 39,999
- 7 (8%): $40,000 – 49,999
- 8 (9%) : $50,000 – 59,999
- 9 (10%) : $60,000 – 69,999
- 2 (2%) : $70,000 – 79,999
- 2 (2%) : $80,000 – 89,999
- 0 (0%) : $90,000 – 99,999
- 5 (5%) : $100,000 or more
In other words, almost half (46%) of all respondents made less than 20,000 dollars a year. 8 (9%) had no insurance and 10 (11%) were on Medicare/Medicaid. Of the respondents who indicated they wanted some kind of medical procedure to help them transition, 34 of 57 (60%) said they could not afford it.
Removing the people who only identified as white, incomes were as follows:
- 8 (27%) : no annual income
- 6 (20%) : under $5,000
- 1 (3%) : $5,000 – 9,999
- 1 (3%) : $10,000 -19,999
- 3 (10%) : $20,000 – 29,999
- 6 (20%) : $30,000 – 39,999
- 1 (3%): $40,000 – 49,999
- 1 (3%) : $50,000 – 59,999
- 2 (7%) : $60,000 – 69,999
- 0 (0%) : $70,000 – 79,999
- 0 (0%) : $80,000 – 89,999
- 0 (0%) : $90,000 – 99,999
- 1 (3%) : $100,000 or more
Thus, 53% of people who identified as something other than only white made less than 20,000 a year, compared to 46% of the total sample population including white respondents.
35 respondents (38%) believe they have been discriminated against based on their gender identity or expression in DC since the regulations on gender identity and expression in the Human Rights Act went into effect. Only 2 respondents have reported the discrimination to the Office of Human Rights. In the “write more” boxes on the survey, people expressed that they seriously doubted whether reporting the incidents would be taken seriously.
The data is also very specific in that it is asking whether the person surveyed had experienced problems in DC since the regulations went into effect. Since many of our respondents did not actually live in the District, they may have experienced discrimination in other places, or before 2006. For example, we cannot even say the percentage of trans people surveyed who have been housed in public accommodations (i.e., jail, shelters etc). Since there is no federal prison in DC, anyone who has been sentenced to a felony or a sentence of over 6-8 months would have served time outside of DC.
Therefore it is possible that more than the 9% we discovered have actually been incarcerated or in homeless shelters outside of DC, or before 2006. Also, given that our data is skewed toward young, white, FTM-spectrum individuals, this number is also likely off.
For Immediate Release
July 10th, 2009
Contact: Rhodes Perry
DC Trans Coalition and Office of Human Rights Launch Bathroom Access and Safety Campaign
Groups Mobilizing Community to Ensure Enforcement of the Human Rights Act
Washington, DC – On Friday, July 3rd, the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) along with the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) launched the Bathroom Access and Safety Campaign, otherwise known as the Pee in Peace Campaign – a community mobilization project designed to ensure bathroom access and safety for all residents, including transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming individuals, in the District.
Even with the District’s comprehensive Human Rights Act, which includes protections for gender identity or expression, trans and gender non-conforming people continue to experience verbal and physical harassment ranging from being attacked and thrown out to even being arrested for simply trying to use the bathroom in the District. In fact, according to a recent citywide survey for transgender and gender non-conforming people, 70 percent of respondents indicated that they had experienced problems accessing or using gender segregated bathrooms.
“Since its founding in 2005, the DCTC has organized community members to fight for the human rights of and equal access for trans and gender non-conforming people living in the District of Columbia. The Bathroom Access and Safety Campaign carries on this commitment, ensuring that the District’s laws are appropriately enforced, making certain that trans and gender non-conforming residents have equal access and appropriate safety when using restroom facilities along with other public accommodations,” said Sadie Baker, a member of the DCTC.
Regulations accompanying the Human Rights Act clarify that all residents have the right to use a bathroom consistent with their gender identity or expression, regardless of real or perceived assigned sex or gender expression. The regulations also specify that all single occupancy restrooms (i.e., any restroom intended for use by one person at a time) in any public or commercial space, like a restaurant, should use gender neutral signage only. For example, signs reading “Men” and “Women” must be replaced with signs that read “Restroom,” or another non-gendered label.
“Despite these regulations, many businesses all over DC are not in compliance with the law, which is why we created this campaign. We are developing a list of all non-compliant businesses throughout DC so that we can inform the Office of Human Rights. OHR Director Velasquez has agreed to help by sending all the businesses we identify a letter informing them of the Human Rights Act and what they need to do in order to be compliant. The businesses will then have 30 days to change their signs, at which point we will check back. It is our hope that all business will comply with OHR’s request. If they do not, we will report them to city officials who will initiate a discrimination complaint,” said Jody Herman, a member of the DCTC.
The DCTC and OHR have asked that community members help by identifying restaurants, cafes or any other public or commercial spaces that are not in compliance with the law. Residents should send the name of the business, the address and the date they noticed the establishment violating the law to DCTCBathrooms@gmail.com, or call (202) 557-1951. On Saturday, July 25th, the group will host a rally in support of bathroom safety and access at 2 pm in Adams Morgan (18th Street and Columbia). All concerned residents are urged to join in this effort to ensure appropriate enforcement of the law. For more information about the Bathroom Access and Safety Campaign, check out the DCTC website at www.dctranscoalition.org under the heading “Campaigns.”
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The DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) is a grassroots community-based organization dedicated to fighting for the human rights of and equal access for transgender and gender non-conforming people in the District of Columbia.
The DC Commission on Human Rights, the group responsible for proposing to gut important parts of the Human Rights Code, are having their regular meeting TONIGHT, September 10th, at 6:30pm.
All supporters of the Coalition and the effort to oppose these changes are encouraged to attend!
The meeting will be at 441 4th Street, Suite 570 North, Room 1117
Washington, DC — this is right at the Judiciary Square Metro.
Call the Human Rights Commission’s office at (202) 727-0656 for additional information.
See you there!
Activists from the DC Trans Coalition hand-delivered over 200 petition signatures and comments from the online petition, in addition to formal commentary from the Coalition and comments from the Silvia Rivera Law Project in New York.
Many organizations and individuals made powerful statements to demand that the Office of Human Rights drop their proposed changes.
The DC Commission on Human Rights meets Thursday, September 11 at 6pm.
The meeting will be held at 441 4th Street, Suite 570 North, Washington, DC.
Call the Human Rights Commission’s office at (202) 727-0656 for room location and additional information.
These meetings are open to the public, and it would be a good time to let the Commission know your thoughts about their proposed changes to the Human Rights Act!