LOS ANGELESTransgender and gender non-conforming people report being denied access to gendered restrooms, and experiencing verbal harassment and physical assault in these spaces at alarming rates, according to a study released by Jody L. Herman, Williams Institute Manager of Transgender Research. Herman's Washington, DC- based survey, conducted with the DC Trans Coalition, found that 70 percent of transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents had ever experienced one or more of these problems in gendered facilities in Washington, DC.
"Findings from this study suggest that transgender people's experiences with gendered restrooms are contributing to this population's minority stress," said Herman. "Policies to protect transgender people's access to restrooms can be understood as policies that are connected to the health and well-being of transgender people."
Herman's study, "Gendered Restrooms and Minority Stress: The Public Regulation of Gender and its Impact on Transgender People's Lives," identifies the impact that transgender people's negative experiences in gendered restrooms can have on their education, employment, health, and participation in public life.
— 27 percent of those who worked in Washington, DC, experienced problems using restrooms at work that, in some cases, caused them to change jobs or leave their employer entirely.
— 54 percent of all respondents reported having some sort of physical problem from trying to avoid using public restrooms, such as dehydration, kidney infections, and urinary tract infections.
— 58 percent reported that they have avoided going out in public due to a lack of safe public restroom facilities.
— 10 percent of survey respondents who attended school in Washington, DC, reported a negative impact on their education, including having excessive absences and dropping out of school due to issues related to restroom access.
— People of color and people who have not medically transitioned fared worse in some measured survey outcomes.
This research helps inform the growing policy debate about how to address the needs of the transgender community. In addition to legal protections that may arise from existing public accommodation laws, some states, cities, and counties have adopted explicit statutory or regulatory language that give transgender individuals legal protections in restrooms. Arguably, the strongest protections are found in Washington, DC, which creates more gender-neutral restrooms out of existing single-occupancy restrooms and protects people's right to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity.
Other jurisdictions that provide explicit protections include the state of New Jersey, and the cities of Oakland, Boston, Denver, Boulder, San Francisco, New York, and several jurisdictions within the state of Oregon. Massachusetts and some school districts in California have also outlined restroom protections for students.
A digital version of the report is available online here: williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/transgender-issues/herman-jpmss-june-2013/ .