Many people have strong opinions on whether or not a man can legally use a women’s bathroom. There are arguments that women don’t feel safe when a man enters their bathroom, and opposing arguments that transgender women don’t feel safe in the men’s bathroom.
Today we’re going to be looking at whether or not it is legal for a man to use a women’s bathroom or if they need to stick to their gender-assigned bathrooms.
Which bathroom should you use?
Everyone should be able to use the bathroom that they feel comfortable in and which they feel matches who they are. If a transgender woman feels more comfortable in the women’s bathroom, then they have the right to use it.
It is now widely recognized as an essential part of the well-being of transgender people that they can use whichever bathroom they feel comfortable in. In fact, they should be able to live in accordance with their gender identity, whether it be male or female.
There are two main reasons why transgender people should use the bathroom that matches their gender identity:
- It is an essential part of transitioning
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has stated that the most critial aspect of transitioning is the ability to live and be treated as their gender identity. Using the correct bathroom without any backlash is just one aspect that falls under this.
People who are transitioning have to be allowed the opportunity to use the correct bathroom and get used to doing so. This step also needs to be completed before proceeding to next steps of transitioning such as medical hormones and surgery.
- Not using the bathroom is dangerous for your health
If a transgener person is not allowed to use the bathroom of their gender identity and feel threatened using the other, they might result in holding it in rather than going at all. Occupational Safety and Hazards Administration (OSHA) states that not going to the bathroom is unhealthy and may lead to other complications such as dehydration.
Using the same bathroom as your gender identity is now being recognized in other fields other than healthcare, such as employment and education.
One case that helped the movement towards bathroom equality was Doe vs. Regional School Unit, in which the Maine Supreme Court saw a transgender girl win the right to use the women’s bathroom in her school to ensure that her psychological well-being wasn’t impacted from having to use the mens.
The school had previously denied her access to the men’s bathroom and therefore “treated [her] differently from other students solely because of her status as a transgender girl.” The court ruled this as a form of discrimination and the girl won the case.
What if you don’t look feminine enough?
Gender policing is a harmful action that should be avoided at all costs. Telling someone that they do not look feminine or masculine enough to use their respective bathrooms can affect their self-esteem and mental health, whether they are a transgender person, a butch woman, or anyone who doesn’t conform to gender stereotypes.
Not allowing someone to use the bathroom assigned to their gender identity is often seen in courts as a form of discrimination. People are safest from harassment when they aren’t being singled out.
Do you have to have undergone genital surgery before using your gender’s bathroom?
Absolutely not – whether someone has undergone genital reconstruction surgery is both nobody’s business, and not conjunctive to their gender. A transgender woman is not only a woman after she has recieved her gender-affirming surgery, she is a woman as soon as she identifies as that gender.
Some people choose not to go through this surgery, but it doesn’t make them any less of the gender that they identify with. Many transgender people choose not to go down the surgery route, whether that be because of costs, worries, or personal beliefs.
The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force conducted a survey out of 6,450 transgender people in the US. Out of these people, less than 25% of transgender women had opted for the surgery, with less than 5% of transgender men had.
Moreover, asking someone whether they have had gender reconstructive surgery is a massive invasion of privacy that could land you in a lot of trouble. Asking this of a person that you don’t know could even be considered illegal.
Should there be more unisex bathrooms?
Unisex bathrooms eliminate the need for transgender people to justify themselves for going into their gender identity bathrooms. We believe that no one should be singled out for something so simple and unimportant as going to the bathroom.
So, we think that there is a need for more unisex bathrooms. There is a myth that these types of bathrooms are more dangerous for women as they are more likely to be harassed by men. This is not based on evidence, and there are laws in place for protecting people in public bathrooms from criminal activity.
Unisex bathrooms are also safer for transgender people who have not come out yet. For example, wanting to use the women’s bathroom might alert people of a transgender woman’s gender identity before she is ready to tell people. Unisex bathrooms would protect people from having to tell people personal detials before they’re ready.
How employers should tackle gendered bathrooms
Employers should always have the safety and comfort of their employees at the forefront of their minds. They have a duty to make sure that every employee feels secure in their workplace without the threat of harassment.
The Minnesota federal court decided in 2002 that it should not be up to a transgender employee to be accomodating to other employees. This includes using the opposite bathroom of their gender identity.
Instead, the Cruzan v. Special School District #1 case determined that this was the job of the employer. If a transgender employee complains to their employer, the employer should offer an alternative to ensure that the complaint is not made again.
Simple resolutions to this complaint might be a separate bathroom for the transgender employee, or a unisex bathroom instead of two gendered bathrooms.
Can employees refuse to offer an alternative?
Changing the layout of the workplace can be difficult and require a lot of paperwork, but it is essential that every employee feels equal to one another. Employers cannot single out one employee and refuse their request or tell them to use the opposite bathroom of their gender identity.
Doing so would be a case of discrimination and can land the employer in a lot of trouble. Moreover, employers need to provide at least one toilet for a workplace for all employees to use. If they fail to do this, they could be breaking the law.
There are currently 18 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that have laws explicitly protecting employees from discrimination of their gender identity. These states are:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
What’s more is the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a zero tolerance policy on employers placing unreasonable restrictions on bathrooms. This means that employers are not allowed to dictate which bathroom a transgender person uses.
This is because it violates the employee’s privacy and opens them up for harassment from other employees. Not only this, but mentioning the fact that they are using the ‘wrong’ bathroom might highlight it to other employees, effectively outing them to their peers before they might have been ready to.
Can employees voice their concerns?
Yes, there is nothing wrong with an employee voicing their concerns about gendered bathrooms to their employees. If the employer is trans-friendly, they will hopefully adopt more pro-trans policies right away.
Your employee might also be pro-trans, but slacking on updating the policies. Voicing your concerns can help hurry them up and make you feel more comfortable in the workplace.
This will make life for both you and your employer’s life easier by preventing complaints further down the line, so if you’re happy and comfortable to advocate for you and other transgender employees, do it.
To sum up, there are no laws on whether men can use a woman’s bathroom or not. People are free to use the bathroom that they identify with, whether that be male or female. In fact, people who have a problem with this are more likely to be breaking the law on account of discrimination.
Unisex bathrooms would help eliminate the problem of gender segregated bathrooms. Everyone could use them without the worry of being harrassed for not looking feminine or masculine enough.
The most important thing to take away from this is not to bother with who is using the same bathroom as you. Everyone has the right to use whichever bathroom they feel comfortable in.