Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill requiring gender-neutral single-user restrooms

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Ariel Hayat/File

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On Sept. 29, Gov. Jerry Brown signed bill AB 1732 into law, requiring single-user restrooms that are open to the public to be all-gender inclusive, which comes after a long string of protests for gender-neutral restrooms by students at UC Berkeley.

 AB 1732 requires all restrooms in places of public accommodation to be all-gender. According to the office of Assemblymember Phil Ting, the bill mainly affects transgender and gender fluid people but also aids parents and caregivers of opposite-gender children and women, who tend to have to wait for available restrooms even if a designated-male single-user restroom is available.

“Civil rights are the strongest when they are inclusive across the gender spectrum,” said Assemblymember Ting in an emailed statement. “That is why we need strong protections in place to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender and gender identity.”

AB 1732 was passed by a majority of the Assembly on Aug. 22, 2016, and will go into effect beginning March 1, 2017.

Students at UC Berkeley have protested the lack of gender-inclusive restrooms on campus in the past, from “shit-ins” to the recent Bathroom Brigade, where protesters lined up cups of fake urine throughout campus and occupied restrooms in lecture halls.

UC Berkeley “still has work to do” to make campus more inclusive, according to Billy Curtis, executive director of the Centers for Educational Justice & Community Engagement.

“We need to continue educating one another about each other’s needs across inclusion and equity, in particular around creating inclusive spaces for the trans and genderqueer community in our academic and co-curricular practices,” Curtis said.

UC Berkeley began implementing gender-neutral single-user restrooms across campus before it was mandated by UC President Janet Napolitano, according to Curtis — but these restrooms are not always the most convenient for transgender and gender fluid students. Amelia Martyn, leader of a transgender group on campus, noted that single-user restrooms on campus are located in “weird, inconvenient places.”

“I know people who just try to never go to the bathroom when they’re out in public,” Martyn said. “(The bill) will make it so that there are a lot more bathrooms available for people.”

Martyn said she believed the bathroom controversy was being used as a “wedge issue” and that she would like to see the conversation turn toward “more important” issues facing the LGBTQ+ community.

“I think people have started to use bathrooms as ‘controversial’ which are just bad for people who are just trying to live their everyday lives,” Martyn said.

Former member of the Bathroom Brigade and campus graduate student Beezer de Martelly said they were “glad to see the state (taking) up these issues,” but expressed concern over honing in on just bathroom access.

“While such access is indeed a basic necessity, we cannot let ourselves ignore the wider and painfully violent context of transphobia,” de Martelly said in an email. “We must … demand accountability and action that addresses all interrelated forms of oppression on campus.”

Contact Revati Thatte at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @revati_thatte.