This past April, a Palm Beach County gay and lesbian community center called Compass made its bathrooms gender neutral. The bathrooms were originally designated by gender, but were converted. Ryanmarie Rice, Youth Services Coordinator at Compass, referenced “an influx of transgender youth” as a deciding factor in the change of the facilities.
Many have spoken well of Compass and its decision, including Robin Schwartz of the Aqua Foundation.
“[The] Aqua Foundation applauds Compass's decision to have gender neutral bathrooms,” Schwartz said. “We encourage all LGBTQ spaces to do the same.”
Members of the Aqua Foundation use the public bathrooms in their building, and Schwartz says that Aqua will put gender-neutral signs on the bathrooms of their events whenever possible.
Stephen J. Fallon of Latinos Salud praised the center not just for what they did a few months back, but for their work over the past couple decades.
“Compass has been around for 20 years; they do good work,” Fallon said. “I'm sure they thought through both the de-stigmatizing benefits of gender neutral and the logistics to address.”
Regarding gender-neutral bathrooms, the nation’s capital may have been the most proactive of any region in our country. According to Vincent Villano of the National Center for Transgender Equality, Washington D.C. has really been ahead of the curve as far as establishing transgender bathrooms.
“Law now requires new facilities being built to have gender-neutral restrooms available,” Villano said. “And any building that already has single-user restrooms that are labeled "men" and "women" are required to rename them to be gender neutral.”
Gender-neutral bathrooms benefit not only transgender folks, but also the general public said Victor Diaz-Herman of Pridelines.
“Of course, one of the major pros to a gender-neutral restroom is that it eliminates the stress that trans or queer people face when having to decide whether to use the ‘Mens’ or ‘Womens’ restroom,” Diaz-Herman said. “By eliminating that stress and honoring that not everyone identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth, we ultimately create safe and affirming spaces and environments for trans and queer folks.”
Diaz-Herman added, “Additionally, gender-neutral restrooms allow families with young children or caregivers tending to a person who is handicap, to occupy the same restroom.”
Any one can use any bathroom on the Pridelines property. Diaz-Herman says that the bathrooms are intended for one person (regardless of gender) to use at any given time.
Kristofer Fegenbush runs the Pride Center, which has offered gender-neutral bathrooms since 2009. The center also provides bathrooms meant solely for men and solely for women. For Fegenbush, it all boils down to keeping patrons satisfied.
“Our mission is to provide a welcoming, safe space—an inclusive home—to our whole community,” he said. “Providing bathroom facilities that provide comfort and sensitivity is a part of that mission.”