Gender neutral bathrooms are great first step for inclusion

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Council Member Chris Riley takes part in an Austin City Council meeting Thursday afternoon. Riley was the lead sponsor of the gender-neutral bathrooms resolution, which requires the city to explore the idea of changing single-occupancy bathroom labels to “gender-neutral.”
Council Member Chris Riley takes part in an Austin City Council meeting Thursday afternoon. Riley was the lead sponsor of the gender-neutral bathrooms resolution, which requires the city to explore the idea of changing single-occupancy bathroom labels to “gender-neutral.”

On Thursday, the Austin City Council approved a measure that would allow for the possibility of requiring all single-occupancy restrooms in the city to become gender neutral. The resolution, sponsored by councilman Chris Riley and co-sponsored by councilman Bill Spelman and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, would have positive consequences that will make a simple task — going to the restroom — easier for many Austinites. Disabled citizens who require assistance when using the restroom and parents with small children of the opposite sex would have a more comfortable environment for using the restroom. But the resolution also makes great strides by creating an avenue for the integration of a community that will probably be among the last fighting for acceptance — the trans community.

 

Long ignored and even derided by other members of the LGTBQ community, the trans community faces an incomparable road to societal tolerance. Many, including myself, fail to understand the struggle that people who identify with a gender that conflicts with their sex, face every day when they have to decide between being labeled as male or female. From a designation at birth to applying for a driver’s license, people are forced to fit within two categories that do not consider alternatives to the standard gender binary.

 

A key factor of a progressive society is the inclusion of all people despite major differences. And although progression is associated with acceptance and tolerance, the Austin City Council is making the right move by first acknowledging the trans community; to be acknowledged is among the most basic human rights. As simple as a bathroom sign may seem, it could lead to powerful social change.

 

Davis is an associate editor.