News & Politics

Dylan Goes to the City Council

asset_upload_file61_287336Earlier this week, at the request of one of my friends who works at OutFront Minnesota, I testified in front of the Minneapolis City Council about the importance of gender neutral single-stall bathrooms. I have been coming out (as one thing or another) for a decade now, but I still get anxious about saying a simple sentence like “Hi, my name is Dylan and I’m transgender and the parent of two-year-old.” I testified about the importance of access to single-stall gender neutral bathrooms both as a transgender person, and as someone who is frequently using the bathroom with a small child.

Currently, Minneapolis has an ordinance that prevents restaurants and bars of a certain size from having gender neutral single user bathrooms. “Separate toilets must be furnished for each sex when five (5) or more employees of opposite sex are on duty at any one time” is how the current ordinance reads – Minneapolis Code of Ordinances Relating to Food Code: Administering and Licensing section 188.450, to be specific. So even if a restaurant had two single stall bathrooms, if there are ever more than five people working there, they have to be gendered. City Council member Andrew Johnson has proposed an ordinance change that allows businesses to decide for themselves if they want to have gender neutral single user bathrooms instead of requiring gendered bathrooms.

As any trans person will tell you, access to gender neutral bathrooms can be life-changing. Even as a child and teenager who didn’t have the language or concepts of transgender yet, I hated using the bathroom in public. I pretty much stopped using the bathroom in elementary school after a group of older kids busted the door open on my stall when I was hiding during recess one day. In high school, I gave myself a kidney infection trying to avoid ever peeing anywhere but my house. In college, I was intentional about showering and using the bathroom at odd times. The cafeteria lady repeatedly yelling down the hall that I was going into the wrong restroom regardless of which bathroom I looked like I was approaching was depressing, though now it’s sort of funny. The pointed comments in my first year dorm bathroom about whether I was a boy or a girl or a freak weren’t funny then and aren’t funny now. Finding single stall gender neutral bathrooms on campus, having a single room on a co-ed floor during my senior year, and having a tight network of queer friends was nothing short of miraculous. I don’t share this for pity, but to illustrate that access to bathrooms is a very real need for transgender people.

As a transmasculine person who has been able to access medical transition, I now very rarely experience bathroom policing. I still get a little freaked out by the lack of aim some people using the men’s restroom must have judging from the state of the toilet seat but at least no one thinks I shouldn’t be able to use the bathroom at all.

Now, you might be wondering what this all has to do with parenting and queer families. As the father of a potty-training toddler who is (as far as we know) a girl, I would love to avoid ever again having the delightful experience of cramming into a tiny stall along with my kid who needs help with several of the key features of using the bathroom. Not to mention when a two-year-old tells you she needs to go, she needs to go. Parent or caretaker out with more than one little kid? Herding everyone into a single user bathroom is way easier than using stalls in a bathroom. Single user gender neutral bathrooms are also incredibly helpful for anyone with a disability who may needs assistance in the bathrooms.

This week, I’m proud to be an out trans person and parent who spoke with others in my community for a needed change. I’m happy that OutFront Minnesota, the largest LGBTQ organization in the state, was organizing people to speak with their council members for this needed change. I’m delighted that multiple city council members are concerned with making changes that positively impact transgender people. And the best very part? The committee I testified in front of was unanimous and enthusiastic in their support of the proposed ordinance changes. It gets voted on by the full City Council next week and seems set to fly through.

PHOTO CREDIT: UUA

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9 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for testifying, Dylan. I often get double-takes when I use a women’s bathroom which I have learned to live with but seeing my daughter go through it has been painful. Here’s to change!

  2. Thank you for fighting for this, Dylan.

  3. The ladies aren’t so great with the aim/clean up either when squatting over the toilet!

    Looking forward to hearing the good news after the vote next week. Well done!!

    • At least in the US, they squat over the toilet seat. Some parts of Central Asia, they squatted ON the toilet seat. Very disconcerting to clean both pee and muddy foot prints off the toilet seat.

  4. I had never really had to think about any of this— thanks for sharing.

  5. I’m excited to announce that the City Council voted unanimously today to change the ordinance to allow single user gender neutral bathrooms in restaurants and bars!

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