Let’s face it: everyone needs to use the restroom. You can make your congregation more welcoming by providing non-gendered restroom spaces. These make an important statement about your openness to transgender and gender non-conforming people. Studies have shown that transgender people face significant harassment and violence in public restrooms (here’s one example); you can counter that by providing safe space in your congregation.
But taking this step benefits even more people. Consider a person in a wheelchair who has a care provider of a different gender, or a dad (or two) with a young daughter, or a woman accompanying her grandfather who is no longer steady on his feet. When restrooms are gendered, all of these people face difficulties going into the bathroom together. Non-gendered restrooms allow for greater access and welcome for all kinds of people, of different abilities and different ages.
If you currently have single use restrooms, but they are labelled “men’s room” and “women’s room” you can just change the signs (see resource below). If you have restrooms that multiple people use, you can still convert them to non-gendered restrooms with new signage or designate some of your restrooms for all people while keeping others for just one gender. Let people in your congregation know why you are taking these steps to increase access.
Looking for resources?
- Need signs? Gender neutral restroom signs are available from com. They have multiple styles, sizes, and colors; some non-profits qualify for free signs from the company so check them out.
- Need more information about the issues?
- The National Center for Transgender Equality has a helpful Fact sheet about bathroom access
- The Movement Advancement Project has this guide for how to talk about transgender people and bathrooms, including how to calm concerns that are raised
Ready to take the next step? Support initiatives in your local area to provide public, non-gendered restrooms. Some municipalities now require businesses to offer this option. You can also encourage establishments that you go to as a congregation—for example, the pizza place the youth group goes to or the movie theater you visit on an outing—to provide restroom access for all.