JCF provides gender-neutral restroom

Editor's note: Today being Transgender Day of Remembrance, we thought it was fitting time to introduce our newest blogger, Federation LGBT Alliance Director Lisa Finkelstein, and to discuss the steps we are taking to make the transgender community feel more welcome at the Federation.

In line with the Jewish Community Federation’s commitment to non-discrimination, we now have a gender-neutral restroom. This restroom is located on the 3rd floor, and allows for equal access to everyone, regardless of gender identification, expression or presentation. Having this gender-neutral restroom available for everybody also allows parents with small children of opposite gender, to have a common restroom to use. The restrooms on the other floors continue to be gender-specific. Together, with the Human Resource department the LGBT Alliance addressed this issue of access to gender neutral restrooms in response to a growing need to provide a facility accessible to our entire community. In 2007, the LGBT Alliance of the Jewish Community Federation launched the Transgender and Gender Variant Task Force along with community partners Kol Tzedek, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, Congregation Sha'ar Zahav and Jewish Mosaic. We have hosted the majority of these Task Force meetings in our Federation building. Before the gender neutral restroom was created a few of our task force members previously had no where to use the bathroom facilities. In the middle of a meeting when a member “had to go” they literally, “had to go” and left the building not to return. Transgender is a term used to refer to people whose gender identity or gender expression is different than the gender they were assigned at birth or different than the stereotypes that goes with that gender.  Many transgender and non-transgender people have no safe places to go to the bathroom in general. Those that identify or have a gender expression outside of the binary gender normative of man or woman often get harassed, beaten, and arrested in both women’s and men’s rooms. Many trans-identified people avoid locations, communities or buildings that they can not easily go to the restroom. This affects not only transgender people who do not identify as female or male, but also transgender people who do identify as female or male as well as many butch women and feminine men. In addressing hesitations about creating gender neutral restrooms in the Jewish community, the Transgender Law Center reminds us that personal preference never overrides discrimination. Many people are hesitant to embrace the concept of developing dialogue around creating gender neutral restrooms. Many people express that women and men are fundamentally different – and so they need to go to the bathroom separately. Here are a few recommended responses to issues that may arise:

  1. About cleanliness: Everyone has the ability to be clean.
  2. A need for women’s only space: Gender-neutral bathrooms in no way keep women from having other women-only spaces.
  3. Fear of assault: A female sign on the door is an illusion of safety. A sign does not keep out attackers and multiple person gender neutral bathrooms could actually provide more safety, if carefully constructed with locking stall doors or no door to the outside, for example, making it less likely that a woman would be alone.
  4. Everyone’s safety is important: The current gender segregated situation is not safe for many transgender and non-transgender people. We need to find a solution that allows everyone safe bathroom access.

Thank you for your support in ensuring that the Jewish Community Federation continues to lead the way as role models in community advocacy and inclusion of all people. Please connect directly with the Human Resource department if you have questions regarding the new facility. If you are interested in materials on bathroom safety please visit: http://transgenderlawcenter.org or connect directly with me, Lisa Finkelstein, Director of the LGBT Alliance at any time. I can be reached at the  Jewish Community Federation building in San Francisco or via phone at 415.369.2863.

Categories: LGBT

Posted

November 20, 2008

Author

The Federation

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