By Alexandra Temblador
You just left brunch with your friends and decide to head to the mall. You’re looking for a parking spot when suddenly you feel it. Two beers and a glass of water—you need to find a restroom. Those shoes you need to buy will have to wait because you need a restroom now. You find a bathroom and push open the door, only to be greeted by angry looks, shouts, rude comments, and maybe even an actual physical push out the door. You are not allowed to use the restroom.
For many transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals, using a public restroom is not as simple as walking through a door. A study done in Washington D.C. in 2013 found that 70 percent of transgender individuals had experienced some sort of discrimination when using a public restroom. Nine percent of respondents in this study had also experienced physical assault when trying to use a public bathroom.
Not only do transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals face discrimination for trying to use a public bathroom facility, but many states are fighting to legalize this discrimination. Most recently, a bill was proposed in Florida that would make it illegal for someone to enter a single-sex bathroom that did not reflect the biological sex they were born with. Such a bill would punish transgender persons who wish to use restrooms that reflected their gender identity with a $1,000 fine or a year in prison.
Although many are fighting bathroom discrimination across the nation through legal measures, one transgender woman is helping to fight this discrimination through an app. Teagan Widmer recently launched Refuge Restrooms, a free app that can be download from the Apple store (the Android app is currently in development). Refuge Restrooms maps out safe restrooms for transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals. It currently has 5,700 listings worldwide.
Those who download the app can search for restrooms according to their location, can add safe bathrooms to the list with notes such as “must be a paying customer” or hours of use, and can comment on and rate current bathroom listings. Many of the bathrooms that are listed are unisex facilities found in restaurants, bars, clubs, or gas stations. However, they even have bathroom listings at universities and nonprofit organizations.
Although still in its early stages, Refuge Restrooms could be the saving grace for many transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals. In the coming years it will undoubtedly create a community of people who wish to share with others safe places all across the world where they can go, a “refuge,” if I may, to relieve themselves in peace.
Become a part of the movement by downloading the free app (or by going online), listing safe public restrooms, following Refuge Restrooms on social media and sharing this amazing tool with others so that we can create a world in which every individual can have the same safe experience when using a public restroom that many take for granted.