WASHINGTON - There has been a lot of attention on the issue of transgender people and public bathrooms – from the Obama administration issuing a directive to public schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms that matches their gender identity to the ongoing legal battle in North Carolina over its bathroom access law.
In the nation’s capital, the laws surrounding this issue can seem confusing as well.
On Wednesday, a security officer at a Giant Food grocery store was arrested for assault after she was alleged of attempting to stop a transgender woman from using a women’s restroom inside the store.
“I think the bathroom laws are so confusing,” said D.C. resident Laverne Newman.
However, the D.C. Office of Human Rights said the laws in the District of Columbia are progressive and they protect transgender individuals.
There are two distinct laws that deal with bathroom-related issues. The first is about choice.
“If an individual wants to use a public restroom, whether it is a single occupancy or multiple occupancy, they get to choose the restroom they elect to use based on their gender identity,” said Monica Palacio, director for the D.C. Office of Human Rights.
The second law puts the responsibility on businesses.
“New businesses didn't know that if they had a single stall bathroom, the signage on the bathroom had to be gender neutral,” Palacio said.
But what about other people's rights? And safety concerns?
“The victims of violence from what we have heard and learned are the individuals who are gender non-conforming because people have reactions and feelings and misinformation about folks being unusual and looking different,” said Palacio.
For more information on D.C.’s laws, go to ohr.dc.gov/page/safe-bathrooms-dc