One Equal World

Refuge Restrooms Helps Non-Binary People Locate Safe Public Spaces

Posted on: February 13, 2014

gender neutral bathroom

6-Year-Old Coy Mathis helped make it possible for all transgender children in CO to use the restroom they identify with in schools.
Image: Shutterstock

Using public restrooms is a daily ritual that is taken for granted by most people. What if this completely private, safe space was suddenly made dangerous and scary for you? How would you fee? Unfortunately, many individuals do regard public restrooms – in schools, in shopping centers, at work – with fear and anxiety because of their gender identity.

For transgender people, or other people who are gender nonconforming, these public spaces are stigmatizing, confusing, and even dangerous. As James Nichols for The Huffington Post explains, “Finding a safe bathroom space has always been an issue for transgender, genderqueer, non-binary individuals – people from all over the spectrum of gender identity.” Nichols reports that “Now, a new website called Refuge Restrooms is attempting to help people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community who don’t feel safe in traditionally gendered restrooms find safe options within close proximity.”

Gender-neutral bathrooms are definitely not always easy to come by, particularly in more rural areas. This is why Refuge Restrooms creator Teagan Widmer decided to create a unisex restroom tracker, to equip non-binary individuals with a resource to help them safely navigate public spaces. Widmer explains, “Bathroom usage is a huge issue for trans people. It’s been well documented over the past few months in the press just how big of an issue it is…I built the site because I saw a gap that needed to be filled.”

Gendered bathrooms and how they can be dangerous spaces for trans folk certainly has been a topic heavily covered by media outlets over the last few months. California recently passed a law that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom with which they identify without fear of penalization, and transgender children like Coy Mathis made headlines in 2013 for the ways in which school administration made it confusing and difficult to use the restroom while at school. With more transgender advocates expressing the genuine need for gender-neutral public restrooms, more awareness about the severity of this issue is being brought to the forefront.

Learn more about Refuge Restrooms in Nichols’s report.

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