New York City

De Blasio orders transgender bathroom access in NYC

Called ‘stepping stone’ by Squadron

March 7, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed an order allowing transgender people to use bathrooms that match their gender identity in public buildings and schools. Shown: A gender-neutral restroom at the University of Vermont. AP Photo/Toby Talbot ____
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Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order on Monday saying that transgender people must be allowed to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity in city-owned buildings, including offices, public parks, pools and playgrounds.

“Access to bathrooms and other single-sex facilities is a fundamental human right that should not be restricted or denied to anyone,” de Blasio said in a statement.

A host of city officials, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, came out strongly in favor of the order.

“Brooklyn is a place of inclusion, and our city facilities need to reflect our inclusive spirit and support the needs of every person, regardless of their gender identity,” Adams said.

He added that he was proud that Brooklyn Borough Hall and other government buildings would “set a new standard for equal bathroom access in public spaces across America.”

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said that city schools were working to ensure that facilities “are inclusive of all genders over the coming months.”

The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) is a proposed New York state law which adds gender identity as a protected class.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, a sponsor of GENDA, called the bathroom order an important step to transgender equality.

“Access to public accommodations should be a basic right for all New Yorkers,” he said.

About a quarter of transgender people said in a nationwide survey that they had been denied access to their preferred bathroom at work or school.

Transgender bathroom usage has encountered opposition nationwide. One commonly-stated fear is that men might falsely present themselves as transgender females in order to attack women in bathrooms. Several states, such as Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma and Washington, are considering or have introduced bills imposing fines on transgender restroom transgressions.

“So if anyone ‘feels’ like a woman, they can use the women’s restroom, even if they are dressed like men? THAT would freak me out if a random dude came into the bathroom,” said Talia, a Texas resident who commented on a Yelp discussion group.

She was answered by Lisa, also from Texas, who wrote, “I’m also very happy to allow transgendered people to use the facilities they feel most comfortable using. Plus, I’ve used the men’s room when the line for the ladies was out the door and there were no men to be seen.”

Others worry about boys in girls’ locker room.

In New York City, transgender students are already allowed to use locker rooms matching their gender identity.

“The Department of Education has its own guidelines that expressly provide that transgender students should be allowed to use a locker rooms and restrooms that align with student’s gender identity,” Seth Hoy, a spokesperson for the NYC Commission on Human Rights told the Brooklyn Eagle.

In the 12 states that have laws prohibiting gender discrimination in public facilities, no bathroom attacks have yet been reported, according to the city. Advocates say that transgender people themselves are more likely to be the victims of physical and sexual assaults.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), many transgender people suffered negative health effects from trying to avoid public restroom use, including dehydration, kidney infections, and urinary tract infections. In a survey, 58 percent of transgender people reported that they have avoided going out in public due to a lack of safe public restroom facilities.

Some have proposed more “gender-neutral” single-user restrooms.

The policy will begin to roll out in three months.


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