Nedde Flushes the Toilet on Gender Neutral Bathrooms in City Center
By Faith Bolqués and Lila Markow
As our society becomes more accepting of LGBTQIA+* people, gender identity has become an important topic of discussion. Gender specific bathrooms are no longer sufficient, and not everyone feels comfortable or safe in a strictly male or female bathroom. We would like to create a safe, comfortable, and accessible bathroom that can be used by everyone in the community. Our proposal was to make the bathrooms at City Center gender neutral.
Currently, laws are not protecting trans people from harm and harassment in public bathrooms. Bathrooms are places where transgender/non-binary people may be greeted with harassment and violence from others who take it upon themselves to ‘police’ public bathrooms according to their own views of what men and women should look like. This can affect cisgendered people (those who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth) who present themselves outside of the cultural norm as well. This policing is called the Bathroom Problem, and it is something that most trans people have encountered at least once in their lives.
There are few ways that this problem can be addressed and fixed. We worked for about a half a semester on a project to help change City Center’s bathrooms to gender neutral. We put a considerable amount of work into our research and presentation, and we were prepared to share with the City Center’s owner our effective and inexpensive proposal of changing bathroom signs to gender neutral. Once completed, we knew our proposal would take only about 10 minutes of the owner's time to explain what would need be done. Doug Nedde, the owner of City Center, finally got back to us after emails and phone calls and simply stated, “We are not in need of this right now”. Despite the simplicity of this change of signs, that can help our city become more inclusive to its diversity, the owners didn't give us a chance to say what we had to say before we were “politely” rejected.
Having gender neutral bathrooms in City Center would make sure that everyone is taken into account equally. In addition, this could help reduce discrimination and harassment for those who don’t conform to traditional gender identities. We are trying to make downtown Montpelier a safe and comfortable place for all people, and having accessible gender neutral bathrooms would be an important step in the right direction.