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Transgender-Safe Restrooms: There’s An App For That!

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Transgender women face many obstacles in their lives, from discrimination at work to the ever-present threat of transphobic violence. If Teagan Widmer has her way, finding a safe public restroom is not going to be one of them.

As transgender women and those who date them know, using a public restroom can often turn into a harrowing and/or humiliating experience – feeling unwelcome in the ladies’ room and risking assault in the men’s room. While there has been progress for the trans community, from increasingly sympathetic treatment by the media to recent court rulings that affirm the rights of transgender people, finding a public restroom can be a dicey proposition that leaves trans persons vulnerable to harassment or attack. Teagan Widmer is a coder who has launched Refuge Restrooms, a free and open-source directory of trans-safe facilities where the trans community can answer nature’s call while minimizing risk.

Refuge Restrooms is a web-based application that seeks to provide safe restroom access for transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals. Users can search for restrooms by proximity to location, add new restroom listings, as well as comment and rate existing listings. Searches can even be filtered by ADA accessibility or whether the restroom is gender or unisex designated in locations where being transgender is not likely to provoke a negative reaction such as LGBT community center.

In an interview with the Advocate, Widmer said that reports of transgender women being assaulted in bathrooms, as well as her own experiences early in her transition were driving forces in her decision to create this resource. “When I was early in my transition, I didn’t feel comfortable in either bathroom. I no longer felt comfortable in the men’s restroom, but I didn’t feel comfortable in the women’s bathroom either. I felt people’s eyes on me — I felt judgment. I felt like I didn’t “pass enough.”The concept of passing is super problematic in and of itself, but it’s especially hard when it comes to bathroom usage. Many trans folk are left feeling really unsafe. If I go into the women’s room, I might get yelled at. If I go into the men’s room, I might get assaulted.”

With thousands of bathrooms already listed and more being added every day, this is a tremendously valuable resource for the most basic of biological needs. While we look forward to the day when an app such as this won’t be necessary, until then this might just be the best solution to allow yourself to go in peace.

Have you tried Refuge Restrooms? We’d love to hear your thoughts…

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Tell us what you think! 1 Comment

  1. Zack simmons

    September 6, 2014 at 2:46 am

    I’m not trans but understand your problem, but I think they might bring problem on themselves if they let others know what they are or what they’re doing depending on male trans or female tran. I think if that male trans should go in men’s restroom and female trans should go in women’s restroom then there wouldn’t be as much problems or hassles.

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