We speak about removing barriers for people often at my work in the organized Jewish community. These barriers we speak about can often mean finances but they can easily be much simpler and much more tangible. These barriers can be a physical or mental block that keeps someone in the margins not able to get access to what our Jewish community has to offer.
Here is a barrier that we don’t speak about a lot in the organized Jewish community: restrooms. Many people have no safe places to go to the bathroom. It is true! Ever wonder about the gender of that long-haired person in the men’s room or that short-haired person in the woman’s room? Imagine the looks that they get each time they simply have to go to the bathroom because their gender presentation does not fit the mold of other people around them. Many people avoid public bathrooms altogether because these looks can quickly turn into harassment.
A copy of the sign that you can see in this blog is now hanging on our third floor outside of a restroom that was once reserved solely for use by men. A few years ago we put up a sign that simply said “gender neutral” but guests in our building kept referring to it as the “transgender bathroom.” This awkward phrasing that was being used started to create an even more isolating experience for both guests and employees. So together with two of my colleagues we were able to craft this updated sign.
I don’t always know how to honor each one of our community’s micro successes in the LGBT inclusion work that I do. We do not even know yet if this new sign can be seen as a success. I simply hope that this sign and story can present an opportunity to shape the way we can see things differently as a community.
I am aware that we need to share these moments of change to help other communities take similar steps towards greater inclusion. So if you have a suggestion on a success that you have experienced, please share it!
If you are looking for more gender neutral bathroom resources take a look here:
- Safe2pee – a collective of like-minded activists offering resources to find safe places to use the bathroom and activism to promote gender free public restrooms
- Toilet Training – a documentary video and collaboration between transgender videomaker Tara Mateik and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Using the stories of people who have been harassed, arrested or beaten for trying to use bathrooms, Toilet Training focuses on bathroom access in public space, in schools, and at work.
- Toilet Training Toolkit – a companion toolkit full of useful facts and talking points about trans equality and bathroom access
- Peeing in Peace – a resource guide created by the Transgender Law Center combining basic information about how someone can protect themselves with common sense steps that can be taken to change the way in which an employer, school administrator, business owner, or government oﬃcial handles bathroom access issues
- West Coast LGBT Training Institute for the Jewish Community – The purpose of the training is to make sure that LGBT youth, families, and staff are safe and affirmed in all Jewish educational and community settings. Participants will be trained and given the tools and guidance to replicate the trainings in their own communities.
- The Little Zeus’s Room (bilerico.com)
- University students push for gender-neutral washrooms (ctv.ca)
- UCLA To Make Co-Ed Roommates An Option For Transgender Students? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Gender-neutral passports a possibility (pinkbananaworld.com)
- California Passes Two Historic Transgender Laws (huffingtonpost.com)
- Indonesia’s transgender couples surrounded by fear and persecution (guardian.co.uk)
- No, this isn’t really the way to include transgender people (feministphilosophers.wordpress.com)
- LGBT Book Readings at the Jewish Community Library (qjew.wordpress.com)