This week: DC Starbucks restrooms go gender-neutral

This week Washington DC area Starbucks are making the switch from restrooms designated “Women” and “Men” to restrooms that say (this will come as a shock) “Restroom.” The push came from two local groups, the DC Trans Coalition and the DC Center, and it wasn’t simple protesting that got the point across — they had the power of the law on their side. A previously little-known mandate in DC law actually states that all restrooms are equally accessible to “transgender and non-gender conforming individuals.”

An ’09 survey by the DC Trans Coalition found that 68 percent of local transgender and gender-nonconforming residents reported being “denied access to, verbally harassed in, and/or physically assaulted in public bathrooms.” The problem, however, is that it’s hard to actually hold someone accountable for those actions. It takes the harassment, proof that this harassment was based on gender identity, and then pursuit of a complaint with DC’s Office of Human Rights. So DC’s law provides a “shortcut” that makes it easy for an establishment to provide bathrooms to all patrons by making them entirely gender neutral.

They’re hoping that the switch for the 52 area Starbucks will provide the push for other local businesses to also follow suit. Amanda Hess, the local writer who published the originally news article, really tried to put the story in a 100% positive light. I actually enjoyed the article I first read on by staff-writer Anna North a lot more.

She pointed out the fact that the gender neutral restroom switch has both pros and cons by pointing out the news story about the sixth grader that has been provided a gender-neutral restroom and has felt ostracized for it. (I’m pretty sure someone wrote a blog post about it, so I’m not going to go into a million details) — She quoted Jordan Rubinstein,’s writer who wrote the story on the fact that gender-neutral restrooms have downsides, too.

“The transgender student at the center of this story wanted to fit in with her classmates and use the same bathroom as all the other girls. Indeed, while making more gender-neutral bathrooms available can help many transgender people, a transgender person should still be allowed to use the bathroom based on their gender.”
As the story stated, this is a great first step in heading in the right direction for DC area businesses…. so hopefully in the grand scheme of things, it can be the catalyst for other local businesses to make sure that everyone who enters them is receiving the safety and respect that they deserve.


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