City of Bainbridge Island may adopt regulations to protect LGBTQ restroom access

The Bainbridge Island City Council will take up a proposal for gender-inclusive restrooms at its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 13.

The Bainbridge Island City Council will take up a proposal for gender-inclusive restrooms at its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 13.

Bainbridge Island may become the second city in the state to adopt protections for transgender people who want to use the bathroom of their choice.

Bainbridge Councilman Matthew Tirman has proposed legislation that would require single-stall bathrooms to be open to all users, regardless of their sex or gender identity.

Signs for single-occupant restrooms used by the public would also have to be changed so they do not reflect male- or female-specific use.

Tirman said the gender-inclusive restroom proposal mimics one adopted several years ago by the city of Seattle, as well as other cities across the country.

The need, he said, is due to the ongoing assault on federal protections for transgender individuals.

Tirman said there has been “a full frontal attack on the LGBTQ community, and even more specifically on the transgender community, whether that be rolling back protections in schools from the Department of Education to Trump’s transgender ban in the military.”

“You can see the writing on the wall,” Tirman said.

While Washington state has been at the forefront of maintaining access to restrooms for all citizens, the state Human Rights Commission’s rule on open bathrooms and locker rooms has been the subject of several roll-back attempts.

Last year, a group called Just Want Privacy tried to push Initiative 1552, a proposal to undo the rule, to a public vote.

I-552 would have mandated that people use the restroom of their birth gender, with school officials and police helping to enforce the law.

That measure, however, failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the November 2017 ballot.

“Fortunately, we live in a very progressive state; our Human Rights Commission has certainly enshrined some of the protections for transgender and gender-fluid individuals, but I think if we have the ability here on Bainbridge to further protect threaten communities, then we need to do that,” he added.

“We will further enshrine and codify the right here on Bainbridge for an individual to use the restroom, the public facility, of their choice according to their gender identity,” he said.

Other cities across the country have adopted similar legislation, including Denver, Colorado; Austin, Texas; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Bainbridge Island City Council will review the proposal for gender-inclusive restrooms at its meeting this week.

After its initial review Tuesday, the topic will return to the council’s business agenda for the meeting on Tuesday, March 27.

Beyond what’s happening at the state and national, gender-inclusive restroom access is an issue for Tirman on a personal level.

“Being the father of a transgender teen, it is a very personal daily experience,” Tirman said. “And getting to know and work with the LGBTQ community here — in Kitsap, Bainbridge and Seattle — take away the political pressures; the day-to-day life and the societal pressures that come along with being transgender, it’s not easy.”

“I look at this as a very fair, a very compassionate way for our local government to say, we are going to strip out one extra layer of anxiety, one extra layer of uncertainty in your day-to-day life.”

The regulations would cover all single-stall bathrooms used by the public; existing restrooms as well as ones yet to be built.

Tirman has met with chamber of commerce representatives on his proposal, and has also shared it with the downtown association, parks and school districts.

He’s also been trying to build backing from his colleagues on the Bainbridge council.

The proposal has also found support from Kitsap Pride, Bainbridge Island Pride, Equal Rights Washington and the Ingersoll Gender Center.

“Overall, the comments we have received have been positive,” Tirman said.

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