The opinions expressed in entries in the LC Blog are those of the author, not of Lawyers Club of San Diego.
On March 1, 2017, California required single-occupancy restrooms in businesses, government buildings, and places of public accommodation. These single-occupancy restrooms can include up to one flush toilet and one urinal and must be identified by gender-neutral signage. I am a firm supporter of gender-neutral restrooms and the ideals supporting this equitable advancement. No longer will transgender and gender nonconforming individuals feel the anxiety that comes with choosing a restroom of a specific gender in a public place and being questioned, or worse, being told they are entering the “wrong” restroom.
This change in California’s laws regarding public restrooms reminds me of the dismantling of Jim Crow-era laws, when I think of the impact it has likely had on those advocating for the change. Yet, the first time I entered a gender-neutral restroom, I complained about having to endure a smelly urinal when I do not need a urinal to use the restroom. I was grossed out by the smelly urinal plastered against the wall. I felt very uncomfortable with this unfamiliar look and smell. I remember trying to hold my breath and running in and out of the restroom as fast as I possibly could. As a heterosexual woman, it was the first time I had seen a urinal in person.
I recognized my selfishness immediately and wondered how many others had similar experiences and thoughts. Having been in many gender-neutral restrooms since then, I have grown accustomed to it and embraced it as a new norm. If my temporary discomfort plays a small part in LGBTQ community advancement towards equality and minimizes fear and anxiety for that community, it is happily endured.
Brenda Lopez is a Certified Family Law Specialist working at Antonyan Miranda, LLP, the current Family Law Chair for the SDCBA, and wrote this for San Diego Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee.