More Bathroom Campaign Updates

First of all, we added some more resources to our page on bathroom safety and access. Check them out!

Toilet Training: A film and training resource by the Sylvia Rivera Law Project:  “The video addresses the persistent discrimination, harassment, and violence that people who transgress gender norms face in gender segregated bathrooms.” A searchable online database to find gender neutral and/or wheelchair accessible bathrooms by city.

Let Us Pee: A blog in which people post anonymous stories of facing discrimination based on their gender identity, gender expression or perceived sexual orientation.

Also, we finished writing a letter to the editor of the Washington City Paper. Have a read after the cut.We think it’s pretty important to clear up some possible confusion caused by the article they recently published which mentioned our campaign.

To the editor:

Your recent article, ‘D.C. Bathroom Signs: Ignored By Many, Hated By Some, Expensive, and Possibly Illegal’ (The Sexist, 8/14) was grossly misleading, sensationalizing and, overall, destructive to the goals of the DC Trans Coalition’s “Pee in Peace” campaign, our initiative to ensure that transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming people can safely access public restrooms. This article’s focus on irrelevant concerns – such as the universal dislike of unclean restrooms, discomfort with multiple-stall unisex bathrooms, and the emphasis on a few businesses’ costly investment in ornate bathroom door signs – distracts from the central and crucial point: single stall, single occupancy bathrooms in Washington, DC businesses must be labeled ‘restroom’ rather than ‘women’ or ‘men’ according to the DC Human Rights Act.

To clarify, the ‘Pee in Peace’ campaign, a project introduced by the DC Trans Coalition and supported by the Office of Human Rights, is NOT calling for unisex multi-stall bathrooms, seeking to cost businesses large amounts of money, or looking to create controversy.  This article fails to make an adequate distinction between bathrooms that are not in compliance with the Human Rights Act and legal multi-stall restrooms and thus obfuscates the intention of our organizing. The provisions for gender neutral signage accompanying the Human Rights Act only apply to existing single occupancy (one person at a time) facilities. Many of the restroom examples listed in this article are irrelevant because they are multi-occupancy bathrooms and thus exempt from those provisions.

We are trying to educate people about the law and about issues that trans and gender non-conforming people face daily when using public facilities. Most importantly, we are working to ensure that businesses in DC are aware of and in compliance with the DC Human Rights Act. The DCTC is not opposed to all gender-segregated bathrooms; we merely are working to ensure that our community has the ability to safely access the existing gender-segregated restrooms that are appropriate to our gender, and to provide more gender neutral options.  We are always willing to work with local businesses to come up with solutions that keep everyone’s needs in mind and still increase trans people’s safety.

Finally, to respond to Ruth Jacob’s inflammatory and abusive statement, we too are very concerned about assault in public bathrooms.  Trans and gender non-conforming people are far more at risk of being victims of sexual assault than its perpetrators.  Results of a recent DC Trans Coalition survey reveal that 70 percent of trans and gender non-conforming respondents reported experiencing hostility and/or violence attempting to use public restrooms in DC.  We are aware of no such statistic regarding cisgendered (non-trans) people. Portraying trans women as sexual predators is merely a scare tactic that distracts from the real issues; there is absolutely no evidence to indicate that trans women are more likely to be perpetrators of sexual assault than cisgendered women.

Like everyone else, we have to pee. Having a “woman” sign, as opposed to a gender neutral sign, on a single-occupancy bathroom door does NOT make it more difficult for sexual predators to enter said restroom. There’s no simple or easy way to keep predators out of bathrooms, but discriminating against trans women, or trans men, won’t help. Clearly, signs aren’t stopping sexual assault right now.

Whether you call this article’s approach to the story ‘looking for interesting cases’ or even just ‘stirring up controversy’, the bottom line is: misleading reporting with little basis in facts makes the job of making our community safer all the more difficult.  Running a good story should never take the place of providing a person with the most basic, and humanizing, right: a place to pee, in peace.

Elijah Edelman
Sadie Baker
The DC Trans Coalition


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