Gender-Inclusive Restrooms Proposed as LGBT Members Depart City Council

Image via City of Seattle.
Image via City of Seattle.

Outgoing member Sally Clark, who is leaving the council this month for a fancy-ish communications gig (you and me both, sister) at UW, said last week that she hopes her successor, whoever he or she may be, will continue pursuing issues important to LGBT Seattleites, even though the council will likely no longer have a single gay or lesbian member. (Tom Rasmussen is the other LGBT council member; former Equal Rights Washington director Rod Hearne EDITED TO ADD: and Michael Maddux are the only viable gay candidates running, against popular incumbent Kshama Sawant in the new 3rd council district and Jean Godden in the new 4th, respectively.

For example, Clark says the council is currently working on a law requiring all businesses with single-stall restrooms to provide gender-neutral signage, indicating that the restrooms may be used by people of any gender. “With the growth of trans visibility and power, you get a lot of people who say, ‘Why should I be walking into a restaurant or other place of public accommodation and have them say, “Hey, that’s not your restroom!”‘”

What the council would like, Clark says, “is to say, ‘You have a certain amount of time to changes your signage'” to accommodate transgender people. (The council is deliberately not taking on the issue of gender-inclusive multi-stall restrooms, which would be much more controversial). The change would also make it easier for people with disabilities who travel with an aide of another gender to use the restroom without getting weird looks from other customers, Clark says.

The only potential problem Clark sees is that some business owners with more than one single-stall restroom may grouse that they have to install a urinal in each one. But she points out: “They manage to pee in a toilet at home, I’m sure they can manage it when they’re out” in public.

As for whether a lack of gay representation will affect the council’s focus on LGBT issues, Clark is hesitant. “I would love to think that it doesn’t matter anymore, but I think there are still issues that come up in municipal government for LGBT people,” she says—like “how do single, older LGBT people find appropriate staff and housing, how are LGBT people treated in the shelter system? It does bother me that there most likely won’t be an LGBT person serving” on the council, Clark says.

There’s still time. The filing deadline for the August 4 primary election is Friday, May 15.

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