Multnomah County to Require Gender-Neutral Bathrooms in All New Buildings

Photo by Scott Beale via photopin cc
Photo by Scott Beale via photopin cc
By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

Multnomah County Board Chair Jeff Cogen is expected to sign an executive order this morning requiring all new county construction projects to include gender-neutral bathrooms, the Oregonian reports. The county will also attempt to designated unisex facilities in the 120 existing properties.

Cogen told the Oregonian that the signing — timed to align with LGBTQ Pride month — was prompted by employee concerns.

“Some folks have told us they literally have to wait and go home during the day to go to the bathroom,” he said. “Clearly, that is suffering no one should have to endure.”

For folks who are not trans or gender non-conforming, it may be difficult to understand why this is such an issue. (Don’t believe me? Read the comments on the Oregonian’s article.) But it can be downright dangerous to walk in to a bathroom when folks don’t think you belong there. At a minimum, it’s a nerve-wracking experience.

And so the county is taking the easiest, cheapest, and most logical first step. Single-stall restrooms that are currently designated as being for “men” or “women” will become non-gendered. (What’s the point of gendering a room that is only ever occupied by one person at a time?)

BRO applauded the decision:

“When it comes down to it, everyone is in the restroom for the same reason,” said Tash Shatz, trans justice program manager for Basic Rights Oregon, an organization that fights for equality rights. “All we are looking for is equal access.”

Shatz said he and other transgender people frequently encounter harassment or threats when using bathrooms others may not expect them to use, based on their appearance.

“All we are talking about is access to single-occupancy restrooms, which benefit many others, as well,” Shatz said. “Whether it’s people with disabilities, families needing a diaper-changing room, or moms with breastmilk pumps, this is good for everyone.”

Here’s hoping it catches on. Read more about the trailblazing order here and share your thoughts/hopes/bathroom horror stories in the comments.