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New York City Enacts Gender Identity Rules For Restrooms, Locker Rooms


Across the country, cities and states are debating who can use public restrooms, specifically whether a transgender person can use the bathroom that aligns with his or her gender identity. An executive order in New York City now ensures that transgender people can use the restroom or locker room they want when they're visiting any facility owned by the city, from offices to pools. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang has the story.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Like many major cities in the U.S., New York already has laws that allow transgender people to use bathrooms they identify with. But this new executive order specifically bans New York City employees from asking for ID cards or medical records to check a person's gender before entering a restroom owned by the city.


BILL DE BLASIO: Let's face it. For too long, too many transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers have been harassed.

WANG: That was Mayor Bill de Blasio who signed the executive order today with the support of transgender New Yorkers like Sean Coleman who runs a service agency for LGBT people in the Bronx called Destination Tomorrow. Coleman says he used to limit his time outside to four hours for fear of not having access to a public restroom.


SEAN COLEMAN: This executive order will ensure that no transgender New Yorker will ever suffer through the pain of attempting to wait for a safe place to relieve themselves.

ETHAN RICE: The executive order stands in really sharp contrast to the wave of antitransgender legislation that's sweeping the nation right now, and it sets New York City apart.

WANG: That was Ethan Rice, an attorney with Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, who's been watching policies in other cities and states. In South Dakota, the governor recently vetoed a bill that would've required transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms according to their sex at birth. In Houston last fall, voters blocked a nondiscrimination ordinance partly because of fears that would lead to broader access to bathrooms. And in North Carolina, state lawmakers are debating about a similar rule in Charlotte because of worries about public safety. Back in New York, though, Scott Hayes of Brooklyn was happy to hear about the city's new executive order.

SCOTT HAYES: You should be able to choose the rest room that best suits you, and I'm not offended by it at all.

WANG: Pamela Noel of Queens supports the policy with some reservations about sharing the ladies' room.

PAMELA NOEL: Well, I don't like it, but if it's his choice and he wants to use it, then go ahead and use it.

WANG: Dwayne Johnson of Brooklyn says he's also OK with the policy on bathrooms, but when it comes to locker rooms...

DWAYNE JOHNSON: Well, I don't know. I've never been in a situation like that.

WANG: Johnson suggested building separate locker rooms for transgender people so they can avoid getting harassed, but that's an idea not included in the safety requirements. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hansi Lo Wang (he/him) is a national correspondent for NPR reporting on the people, power and money behind the U.S. census.

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