By Levar Franklin
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order requiring city buildings to provide access to city restrooms and locker rooms to all people based on their chosen gender identity.
The mayor signed the order on March 7 mandating the policy at city facilities, including offices, pools and recreation centers, permitting the use of restrooms without the need to show identification or any other proof of gender. The move comes amid a continuing national debate over anti-discrimination laws.
“Access to bathrooms and other single-sex facilities is a fundamental human right that should not be restricted or denied to any individual,” de Blasio said in a statement released on his NYC.gov website. “Every New Yorker should feel safe in our city and this starts with our city’s buildings.”
This order doesn’t require city agencies to build new single-stall restroom or locker room facilities, but instead establishes that all individuals, including those who are transgender or gender non-conforming, are free to use single-sex facilities consistent with their gender identity. The order is only for city facilities, private businesses are not mandated to change or accommodate non-gender conforming individuals.
“I believe this is a good change by the city because people shouldn’t be asked what gender or what they identify themselves to use a bathroom, we live in a free society,” said York Psychology major, Ashley Persaud, who identifies herself as bisexual.
New York City is widely considered to be the birthplace of the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and nearly all of the nation’s 20 largest cities have local or state non-discrimination laws that allow transgender people to use whatever bathroom they identify with, though a debate is raging nationwide about the topic.
In the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, advocates have sought to secure broader protection against discrimination nationwide. The desegregation of bathrooms is the latest proving ground for the LGBT community against discrimination laws. Opponents of the new bathroom regulations argue that this opens up a chance for more sexual assaults and more sexual harassment.
“It’s not about discrimination or bias, for me it’s just about being comfortable in a bit of a vulnerable state as in the bathroom, it’s all so confusing we will soon have to accommodate for everyone and every need they want,” said Carlsencia Romain, also a Psychology major at York College.
This month North Carolina legislators passed a wide-ranging bill barring transgender people from bathrooms and locker rooms that do not match the gender on their birth certificates. Several high profile companies and performers are boycotting that state as a result, despite an attempt by the governor to water down the legislation.
South Dakota and Tennessee recently rejected bills allowing sex-identifying access to bathrooms.