Everybody Needs to Pee: A How-to Guide
North Carolina legislators have enacted a law preventing the state’s cities and counties from prohibiting LGBT+ discrimination, particularly in regards to washroom use.
Three weeks ago, North Carolina’s governor, Patrick McCrory, signed a bill put forward by the Republican-controlled General Assembly barring local governments from having their own anti-discrimination rules.
The decision was apparently made in response to an anti-discrimination ordinance passed by the city of Charlotte, NC (pop. 793,000), that enabled people to use the washroom matching their gender identity. The City of Charlotte’s ordinance is now nil and void with the passing of the state’s legislation.
Similarly, state legislators in Kansas, have introduced Orwellian legislation that would allow students to sue their school for up to $2,500 if they find someone using a washroom that does not match that person’s birth-assigned gender. It is still unclear whether students will be required to present government-issued ID before using the washroom or if Kansas legislators expect teachers to inspect student genitals.
Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, gender identity has been explicitly protected in the province’s Human Rights Code since 2014. While the Saskatchewan government has yet to provide any clear legislation regarding an individual’s right to access a washroom that matches their gender identity, a court has ordered the government to allow individuals to change the gender markers on identification documents without having to undergo sex-reassignment surgery.
Unfortunately, lack of access to safe washrooms remains a major issue for gender diverse folks in Moose Jaw. Washroom harassment such as shaming, shouting or even violence continue to be all too common.
So what can you do to help ensure that everyone has access to a safe washroom in Moose Jaw?
Step 1: Educate Yourself
Learning about diversity is one of the most crucial ways to be an ally to gender diverse people. If you are really new to transgender & gender diversity issues, watch John Oliver’s witty and wonderful introduction to transgender rights below; his washroom rant starts around the 9:12 mark.
Moose Jaw Pride also has some awesome links to resources on, by and for gender diverse folks here: https://moosejawpride.ca/resources/
Step 2: Listen to Gender-Diverse Voices & Experiences
There are many different first-hand accounts of the humiliation and health issues that gender-diverse people face when banned from using the washroom. It is absolutely crucial to listen to the voices and experiences of folks like Ivan Coyote who has an incredible TED Talk called, “Everybody Needs a Safe Place to Pee.”
Step 3: Reflect
Like any idea that is new to you, it is important to take some time to reflect on what you already know about the issue and practice empathy. We’ve got some starter questions for you to consider below:
Where are the gender neutral washrooms that you know of?
How would you feel if someone told you that you weren’t allowed to use the washroom?
Who else might benefit from having access to gender neutral washroom?
What would you do if someone who accesses your services requests a gender neutral washroom or reports washroom harassment?
Would your organization be vulnerable to a Human Rights Code violation for not providing the appropriate facilities?
Step 4: Take Action
Besides educating yourself and your friends, family & peers, there are two obvious ways to take action on this issue.
Help Identify Safe Washrooms
It can be humiliating (and sometimes painful) to search for a gender-neutral washroom when you are in public. Help reduce this pain and frustration by contributing to the database of safe washrooms for Gender Diverse people in Moose Jaw (or anywhere in the world). A great tool for this is: http://www.refugerestrooms.org/
How to “Neutralize” a Washroom
Sometimes creating gender-neutral washrooms can be as easy as removing male/female signage from single-stall washrooms and putting up signs that simply say, “Washroom.” However, sometimes this process is a little more involved. Keep in mind that gender-neutral washrooms are one option in providing a safe and affirming place for people to do what they gotta do. However, no one should be forced to use the “gender neutral” washroom – everyone has the right to determine which washroom matches their gender identity.
Below, we have provided you with some helpful considerations adapted and modified from the Saskatoon Public Schools’ Policy on Washroom Accommodation.
1. If someone requests a gener neutral washroom, respect the individual’s confidentiality and privacy
2. Identify who has the authority and responsibility for making the changes and set a goal for when you will complete this project (e.g. 30 days).
3. When deciding which washroom to turn into a gender neutral washroom, keep in mind that single stall washrooms are preferred but this should not be a “keyed” door.
4. The washroom should be in an accessible area and consideration given to the general use of the facility.
5. Consult members of the transgender & gender diverse community about your plan. You can contact Moose Jaw Pride by emailing: email@example.com.
6. Ensure that the gender neutral washroom has appropriate signage.
7. Update all facilities maps to identify your gender neutral washroom. Register your washroom with http://www.refugerestrooms.org/
8. Communicate with & educate your broader community about the existence and importance of the gender neutral washroom.
Ta da! That’s it! And just like that, you’ve got washroom facilities that are hugely more inclusive!