Washington, DC has had sensible bathroom laws for a decade

While some parts of the country are in a lather about who should be allowed to use what bathroom leading to abominable laws like HB2 in North Carolina, Washington, DC has had laws for 10 years about their use that seem to have worked pretty well and could serve as a model for others.

The district laws serve to protect transgender people who may face discrimination, harassment and even violence in restrooms or elsewhere, Imse said. D.C. law addresses transgender bathroom use in two important ways, and both parts set forth requirements for restrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms inside businesses, schools and government agencies.

▪ Part one regulates multi-stall restrooms with “women” or “men” signs at the entrance. D.C. allows “women” and “men” signs but mandates that transgender people be allowed to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.

▪ Part two applies to single-stall restrooms. D.C. requires these facilities be labeled gender neutral – meaning for use by women or men, transgender or otherwise.

D.C.’s law also includes 18 other types of protections, including on the basis of disability, national origin, political party affiliation, race, age and religion.

“I don’t see why it couldn’t be emulated anywhere else,” Imse said.

Given D.C.’s record of no crimes related to the bathroom law – other than transgender people at times facing harassment – Imse says the safety argument for laws like HB2 “seems absurd.”

Business leaders interviewed by McClatchy recently in D.C. agreed.

“I really don’t understand why anybody is getting upset about this. From what I know, the cases that they’re citing of men putting on wigs to stalk people in the bathroom, those aren’t people that identify as transgender. Those are predators. And, that’s completely different,” said Kyle Todd, executive director of one of D.C.’s economic development programs.

Washington DC gets tons of tourists from other states and most don’t even notice that the district has policies that are so controversial back home. As Todd says, “You’ve probably been using the restroom with transgender people off and on for decades, and nobody’s ever known. I just can’t stress this enough: It’s just not a big deal. There hasn’t been a lot of wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth. It’s just a bathroom.”

It seems incredible to me that so much energy and ire is aroused by something that is not really a problem. As the man said, it’s just a bathroom.


  1. says

    The excuse is so often given, that “a man could disguise himself as a trans woman in order to enter a women’s bathroom and do Unspecified Terrible Things”.

    Sexually assaulting women is already illegal outside a gender-segregated facility; so why not just extend that protection past the sign on the door?

    But anyway, a man who wanted to enter a women’s bathroom for nefarious purposes doesn’t have to go to any such lengths. All he need equip himself with is a plunger, or a mop and bucket, and disguise himself as a male worker who might reasonably be expected to be in there, doing a job that takes longer to finish than the usual duration of a visit.

    Or did I just miss a bit where they were also going to introduce laws restricting access to plumbing and cleaning tools?

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