Portland is joining the movement for gender-neutral restrooms.
On Wednesday, the city will formally adopt a new all-user restroom policy and make more than 600 one-person restrooms in parks and city buildings available to everyone, regardless of their gender.
The city’s stated goal is not to eliminate all its gender-specific bathrooms, but rather to make sure that users always have a gender-neutral option available.
“We want people to feel welcome when they come to city buildings, and part of that is removing barriers to using city restrooms,” said Commissioner Nick Fish, who spearheaded the effort.
Fish, a former civil rights attorney, says the shift will serve a wide range of people who aren’t well served by gender-specific bathrooms.
“An older adult with a caregiver, a parent with a young child, a transgender individual: There’s lots of people impacted by what we’re doing, but the principle is the same,” he said.
The iconic signs designating some one-person restrooms for women and others for men are coming down.
They will be replaced with an arguably more accurate icon the city has come up with to designate public restrooms: a toilet and the words “All-User Restroom.”
City buildings are supposed to complete the switch by June 17. Portland Parks and Recreation, which manages most of the city’s restrooms, has until Sept. 1 to install the new signs.
Fish says the city has been working on the policy since December, and it hasn’t generated much controversy.
Portland is among the cities that has condemned North Carolina’s law requiring students students to use bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate, and it has banned city employees from traveling there.
In the Portland area, Grant High School was the first public institution to offer a gender-neutral bathroom option, in response to requests from transgender students.
Multnomah County made the switch to gender-neutral restrooms in 2013 and cities across the nation, including Seattle, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., have adopted similar policies. Philadelphia adopted an even more expansive policy that requires businesses and other places with public restroom facilities to make single-occupant restrooms gender neutral.
Portland’s new policy only applies to city-owned facilities. It dictates that all single-occupant restrooms be open to any user, regardless of gender identity or gender expression. New city buildings have to put at least 10 percent of their toilets in gender-neutral bathrooms.
The city also has roughly 250 multi-stall bathrooms.
In buildings such as City Hall and the Portland Building, which lack any single-user options, the city will convert some of those to all-user bathrooms with more robust privacy screens.
Meanwhile, the California legislature just passed a law that mandates that all single-occupancy restrooms in any business, public place or government agency be designated “all-gender.”
One male state legislator objected, on the grounds that men can’t accurately pee in a toilet and women shouldn’t be exposed to their mess, according to an account in the Los Angeles Times.
That argument didn’t win over women.
“I don’t think that because your aim is bad that makes you any kind of special category where you must have your own bathroom,” said Assemblywoman Susan Eggman.