Portland, Ore., To Require Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

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.

Photo of Ms. Magazine’s bathroom sign.


  1. Angela MArtinez says:

    O.o I am all about people being treated fairly. But, HELLO. Have any of you ever been to a mens bathroom? Why in the world, is legislating that I must share a restroom with other people who have horrible bathroom manners, something that is deemed fair?? This is absolutely absurd! How can bathroom practices make anyone feel included? Has the world gone mad? I LIKE that womens bathrooms are usually clean for the most part. Why do I have to suffer? I have to use a filthy bathroom to what, feel someone else’s pain? HELP.

    • Transgender people can and do experience discrimination and harassment when trying to use a gendered public restroom shared by others. Taking steps to end bathroom policing is a HUGE step for transgender rights. Your post is incredibly selfish, and you need to check your privilege. Maybe read the article again more carefully to increase your understanding of how important this is. Think about how awful it would be if you had to think about little things like using a public restroom because of your gender expression.

  2. I think this is fantastic! Not only is it comforting to those who struggle with gender identity, but also to mothers with small sons or fathers with small daughters who don’t want to risk sending their child into a restroom alone, but also feel uncomfortable bringing a little girl into a men’s restroom or a boy into a women’s restroom. If the aforementioned law is passed in Arizona, it sounds like this could quickly become an issue! At what age would they say a child is no longer allowed in a bathroom designated for the opposite sex? What if that child has a disability, requiring extra assistance at an older age? And what about someone who is physically intersex? People can argue all they want about whether or not anyone honestly identifies with the opposite sex, but there is NO denying that some people physically have both sets of chromosomes. Oh, Arizona. *facepalm* Way to go Oregon!

  3. I can’t tell you how much it saddens me to see Ms Magazine advocating that restrooms can be a good place to breastfeed a child. No one wants to eat in a bathroom, even babies! Breasts and breastfeeding are not shameful nor should breastfeeding be hidden or sexualized. What we need is for breastfeeding to be normalized and no woman should ever feel she has to hide in a bathroom to feed her baby. Breasts are made for babies.

  4. This would be great if people would actually clean up after themselves. Honestly, I could care less, but the fact that people are pushing towards more equality is my cup of tea. However, this country has a horrible habit of not teaching their kids proper manners, and that’s going to get in the way of maintaining these restrooms. Don’t get me wrong, we still have some great people in this country. I’m just saying a majority of our “great people” are neglectful of even the simplest tasks in a restroom: put the seat down, and don’t piss on the commode!

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