Portland Will Be the First to Require Gender Neutral Bathrooms

Written by Ponta Abadi

Great news from the best state in the country, Oregon! (It’s possible, as a homegirl, I’m a little biased.)

Multnomah County, which includes Portland, just became one of the first in the country to require gender-neutral, single-occupancy restrooms in all future construction projects. The executive order, signed Tuesday morning by county board chair Jeff Cogen, was created to get rid of stigmas for those who are transgender. The bill was intentionally signed this month to line up with Multnomah County’s LGBTQ Pride Month.

Cogen tells The Oregonian, “There is no doubt that there will be people who will be opposed to this. … But for us, it’s all about equity and fairness. It’s about us walking our talk.”

This comes just a month after Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter signed similar legislation that required city-owned buildings to include gender-neutral bathrooms. Under this legislation, Philadelphia also became the first city to offer tax credits to companies that give LGBT employees’ domestic partners and children the option to be covered under a company’s health care.

Students who attend Grant High School in Northeast Portland were ahead of the game—they already lobbied their school to be more inclusive, and four student bathrooms plus two staff bathrooms were remodeled to be gender-neutral.

For most, going into a restroom labeled by gender is no big deal. But transgender individuals sometimes may feel uncomfortable using restrooms segregated by sex. A transgender student named Scott Morrison from Grant High even stopped drinking water at school so he wouldn’t have to visit a restroom and face the anxiety of which to go in, according to The Oregonian. Now that his school offers gender-neutral bathrooms, he says, “You don’t even have to think about it, and that’s great.”

Changing bathrooms to make them gender-neutral is literally a small price to pay to make sure people feel comfortable—remodeling six bathrooms at Grant High, for example, cost less than $500. And single-occupancy bathrooms don’t only benefit transgender people: Those with disabilities, mothers who want to breastfeed in private and parents who need a diaper-changing room are just a few examples of others who might benefit from the change.

But some people don’t like change. In fact, an old argument against the Equal Rights Amendment has been that it would lead to unisex bathrooms being required nationwide (horrors!). And in March, Republican State Rep. John Kavanagh proposed a bill in Arizona that would have made it illegal for anyone to use a bathroom not designated for his or her birth sex. (Kavanagh recently put the issue on hold till next year.)

As gender-neutral bathrooms become more and more common, many of us won’t be affected much by the change. But for some, it makes all the difference. Cogen tells The Oregonian, ”Some folks have told us they literally have to wait and go home during the day to go to the bathroom. … Clearly, that is suffering no one should have to endure.”

This post was originally published at Ms. Magazine.


Photo from Thinkstock


Michelle H.

Transgender women are women and transgender men are men. A woman carrying a dildo in her purse or some other long cylindrical object can just as easily rape another woman. And a man can rape and other man.

Within many families both males and females are changing baby's diaper starting from the age that they can do this safely under supervision. So children the time they were very small has probably seen the genital area of both sexes because if they have not changed a diaper they have seen one changed because families these days are more open then they were in the 1950s when I was a child. Changing diapers today is both a male and a female responsibility.

Besides in female bathrooms with the stalls women have lots of privacy unless one sneaks a peak through the crack in the door. From my experience as a transgender women many women can block the view of their genital area with their clothing. I do no matter whatever bathroom I use. When I have used the male bathroom, I have witnessed men entering the bathroom, make a hasty retreat to look at the sign on the door to make sure they have not entered a women's restroom. So what's a girl to do?????

Sarah MacDonald
Sarah MacDonald4 years ago

@Raya and all the rest of the folks who are so horrified at this: get it through your heads that most transgender people heading for the bathroom... only want to eliminate bodily waste, just like you do. This law requires one single seat bathroom that doesn't say 'men' or 'women' on the door. One person goes in at a time and the door locks. It's actually the safest possible kind of public restroom.

There are several businesses in my town that have only gender neutral, single seat bathrooms, and nobody has been raped in any of them ever.

Besides, if a man truly wants more than anything in the world to go into a ladies' room and rape someone, trust me, the door is already open. He doesn't have to put on a dress and pretend he's transitioning to a woman to do so. In a restroom with multiple stalls anyone can walk in at any time.

Let that image fill your nightmares, BWAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!

Raya Engler
Raya Engler4 years ago

Stop trying to make us all one gender! Some people don't want to share bathrooms.
Keep one for the men, one for women and one for both. I would really hate to walk into a bathroom and be raped by someone who feels they have the right to be there!

Spirit Spider
Spirit Spider4 years ago

I can't think of any valid reasons to oppose this!

Curtis P.
Kirk P4 years ago

I'll never forget the first time I saw a unisex public restroom. It was at an old deserted gas station in rural Mississippi in the early 1970s. It was situated adjacent to the "Men's" and the "Women's" restrooms and was for use by (I was told) "coloreds."

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

I agree with Quanta K. I do NOT want to go to the restroom with men! I would feel VERY uncomfortable! Why are we catering to a few again? We are destroying our great country.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G4 years ago

Cool move.

Andy Walker
Past Member 4 years ago


Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran4 years ago

thanks for the clarification Nicole W.

Ernie Miller
william Miller4 years ago

Single occupant that seems a little extreme and expensive people just need to accept Gender and Sex are two different things and learn to accept the differances