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July 25, 2017: California’s Bathroom Laws

July 25, 2017

Mara and I saw our first evidence of California’s new bathroom law, which mandates that single-user public restrooms — those with just one toilet and one sink and can be locked by the user — be gender neutral. (Heres an LA Weekly article on that.) We went on a short getaway to Palm Springs for the July 4 holiday and stopped about halfway along our 120-mile-or-so drive for a refreshment/restroom break at a Del Taco. This is the sign we saw at both single-user restrooms.

We’d seen them at public places in Los Angeles, even before the law took effect on March 1. Many LGBTQ-friendly businesses in L.A. were already ahead of the curve. But there was a sense of freedom when I saw it at a fast food place in a nondescript suburb somewhere in Riverside County. Not just for Mara, but for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waited in line for a single-user women’s bathroom trying “hold it” while there was no one using the single-user men’s bathroom. (And I admit I did break gender ranks a few times and used the men’s room.)

Although the law applies only to single-user bathrooms, it’s a move in the right direction. Just the fact that a single-user restroom only accommodates one person at a time, who can lock the door from the inside, makes the privacy argument that so many right-wing activists use to protest against gender-neutral bathrooms moot. So this law is really a no-brainer. But it’s just the beginning. I was in Japan years ago, where even multi-user restrooms were unisex, and there were no problems. I was much younger and single, and no one bothered me. Everyone there just did their business in closed stalls, washed their hands, and left. And in the U.S., some businesses have a few individual, gender-neutral toilet rooms that are completely enclosed with communal wash basins just outside the doors.

Meanwhile, transgender bathroom rights are still being duked out in states like Texas and North Carolina, per this L.A. Times article. The Texas bills under consideration mainly apply to public/government buildings and schools. (BTW, California already has a law on the books that protects trans students.) But they also seek to prohibit municipalities (namely progressive cities like Dallas and Austin) from passing local non-discrimination laws against the LGBTQ community. While we feel very fortunate to live in California, we support the LGBTQ community in all states and nationwide. 




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