Traditional “men’s” and “women’s” bathrooms are slowly dying out in San Francisco as business owners catch on to the concept that toilets can be used by anyone, regardless of their gender. Even Yelp has built in a feature that allows people searching through its app or website to filter businesses based on their gendered (or gender-neutral) bathrooms. But there is one area that hasn’t caught up: single room occupancy hotels, or SROs.
In April 2016, legislation was approved by the Board of Supervisors that requires public single-stall bathrooms to be labeled as “all-gender” restrooms. The law mandated that new buildings in San Francisco must have at least one gender-neutral bathroom on each floor.
Now, Sup. Hillary Ronen, is seeking to further extend this policy with the requirement that hotels and SROs designate single-stall restrooms as gender neutral. With around 30,000 people — or 5 percent of the city’s population — residing in SROs, this could have a significant effect on people’s comfort, safety, and security when nature calls.
“As a transgender woman, I was so excited when the all gender restroom bill passed in San Francisco, but was disappointed to realize it did not apply to where I live, where I routinely experience harassment,” said Jordan Davis, an SRO resident and member of the San Francisco SRO Task Force. “A lot of transgender people live in SRO hotels — this will make a big difference in my life and in the lives of many others.”
But this policy is not just beneficial for those who are gender nonconforming. “All-gender bathrooms are helpful for many communities: for people with disabilities who work with an attendant of a different gender, for parents with a child of a different gender, for transgender and gender nonconforming people, and frankly, for women who have to sometimes wait in long lines, while the men’s restroom is empty,” said Ronen.
The full board is expected to vote on the issue.