Know When to Hold It
New website initiates a guide to Austin's gender-neutral loos
By Blake McCoy and Kate X Messer,
5:00PM, Mon. Feb. 2, 2015
Sean Seyer knows from comfortable. Once, the local psychotherapist and transman ventured into a bathroom at the Home Depot and encountered something he didn't expect. “I went into the women’s bathroom. I came out of the stall, and there was a woman washing her hands. I noticed she was looking at me… a lot.”
Fortunately for Seyer, that particular adventure in pottyland ended kindly – if awkwardly. The woman washing her hands “approached me and very sweetly asked, ‘Are you a young lady?’” To ameliorate any feelings of discomfort, Seyer affirmed, to which the woman replied, “‘Well I just thought you went into the wrong restroom and so did the other woman who just left, so you be careful, hon.’”
Late last summer, the Austin City Council approved a gender-neutral restroom resolution to require gender-neutral signage for single-occupancy restrooms and to create an implementation plan. Until implementation becomes standardized, the status of Austin single-occupancy facilities – like many folks in need of these gender-neutral restrooms – is in transition. Until then, businesses and public restrooms are a bit of a … pardon the slang, crapshoot.
Enter Know Before You Go ATX, a public service website and clearinghouse set up by Seyer to gather and provide info regarding comfort-friendly restroom across Austin.
The brand-new site – completed last week and just opened up to the public last night – hopes to be a definitive working list of local businesses and buildings and their current bathroom situations. Still in the works, KBYG is modeled after other resources in other cities like San Francisco that have apps to assist transgender, intersex, and gender-nonconforming individuals to find restrooms.
Seyer admits that his tech skills only extend so far. The website is soliciting for web savvy and allied folks to get involved. The site also has a call-out for public participation in the info-gathering department.
If you know of a place with gender-neutral bathrooms or an interesting example of how a local business is dealing with this transition, Seyer asks that you email the site at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note if the facilities are handicap accessible, have diaper changing stations, and/or do or do not have stalls.
Having available gender neutral spaces is a critical step in creating an equally accommodating society. It’s estimated that 2-5% of the U.S. population is made up of transgender/queer individuals, and these numbers are changing as many gender queer folks feel more and more comfortable to identify openly, establishing communities that are open and accepting to everyone.