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September 10, 2015

Public, single-user bathrooms in Philadelphia could become gender-neutral

City Council introduces legislation that would remove 'men' and 'women' signs

In an effort to support transgender people, Philadelphia City Council introduced legislation Thursday that will require businesses to remove signs saying "men" or "women" from public, single-user bathrooms.

The law does not apply to bathrooms that have multiple stalls, as reported. The mayor's Office of LGBT Affairs drafted the bill, and Councilman Mark Squilla introduced it. Businesses that do not comply would face a fine.

"Using a public bathroom can be a highly stressful, rising to even dangerous, experience for certain individuals," Nellie Fitzpatrick, director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, told

Philadelphia law already allows people to choose whichever bathroom fits their gender identity, but transgender advocates argue that this can still lead to dangerous or uncomfortable encounters.

For example, one study that surveyed 93 transgender people in Washington, D.C. found that 68 percent had experienced verbal harassment and 9 percent had been physically assaulted when they attempted to use a bathroom.

These incidents can occur regardless of which bathroom the transgender person is using. For example, one transgender woman reported in the survey that she had been sexually assaulted while using the men's room. Had she used the women's room, however, she might still have faced harassment.