Gender-Inclusive Bathrooms at #ASA19 in New York City, NY
By Jason Orne, Ph.D.
This statement has two parts: a statement of principles, procedures, and future plans for Restroom Equity at ASA; and a report on the 2019 Restrooms with information about where they can be found including maps.
Jason Orne, PhD (Assistant Professor of Sociology at Drexel University) prepared both statements in his role as a member of the Committee on the Status of LGBTQ People in Sociology (hereafter, Status). He also consulted with members of the LGBTQ Sociologists’ Caucus (hereafter, Caucus) and Sociologists for Trans Justice (S4TJ) for input and comments. He was also the designated representative for these organizations at the walkthrough, explained more below.
Statement of Principles and Procedures for the 2019 National Meeting
Restroom equity and inclusion seems simple. However, creating process, principles, and procedures that reflect the diversity of viewpoints, while also centering trans and gender minority experiences and equality, can be difficult. To some, this document will seem to overexplain details. To others, there will doubtless be issues or explanations left unsaid. We hope all approach from a spirit of dialogue.
Terms and Definitions
Transgender, Gender Nonconforming, Nonbinary, and Genderqueer are some terms for gender minorities that can find “traditional” binary gender segregated restrooms challenging, transphobic, and, at times, environments for harassment and violence. Although not all people identifying with these and other gender minority terms identify as ‘transgender,’ this document will use the term ‘trans’ as a general umbrella to refer to all of these terms.
In what follows, this report refers to All Gender (AG) and Binary Gender Segregated (BGS) restrooms. These terms reflect the best attempt in 2019 to capture the difference between a restroom that anyone can use compared to a “traditional” restroom that appears can only be used by binary gender presenting and identified men or women. Terms like “gender-neutral” and “unisex” are disapproved by many in trans communities, and AG is the current favored term. BGS as a term seeks to describe, in neutral ethnographic terms, the requirements these restrooms impose and reflect on users.
History and Future of All Gender Restrooms at ASA National Meetings Orne serves as the head of the Restroom Equity and Inclusion (REI) subcommittee of Status. Status, Caucus, and S4TJ received in various forms for years complaints about the availability of All Gender restrooms at the ASA National Meetings. In 2018, Orne, as a liaison from these organizations, met with ASA. Status then convened the Restroom Equity and Inclusion subcommittee to create procedures for ASA to create an inclusive ASA meeting for people of all genders in restrooms.
The plan is as follows: 1) The 2019 ASA meeting assigned restrooms using these principles and procedures, writing down Orne’s process after consultation on restroom equity with many, many people of different genders, representing a wide variety of positions (including those in-favor of primarily gender segregated restrooms). 2) REI will review the entire process, including collecting additional commentary from the public. A revised process will be implemented for the 2020 ASA National Meeting. 3) Barring unforeseen issues with the revised process, Status will work with ASA to create relevant policy to institutionalize the process and procedures for all future ASA meetings.
Public commentary is welcome to Orne, at JasonOrne@Drexel.edu, for use by the REI. TERF, violent, transphobic, or comments otherwise not in a spirit of dialogue or from the viewpoint that trans people’s gender is invalid, will be left unread and REI will not respond.
The following Principles guided the 2019 restroom decisions.
— Gender inclusivity, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, anti-biphobia, and anti-cissexism are central tenets of sociology and therefore should be represented in the actions and policies of its professional organizations (e.g., the American Sociological Association).
— One concrete expression of the aforementioned tenets is restroom equity. Equality in this domain entails the right of every individual to use public restrooms of their choosing in safety and privacy. In the context of restrooms, this means being free and safe to use the restroom that corresponds with one’s gender identity or presentation, and having AG restrooms available to ensure broad access and a space explicitly marked as open to people of all genders.
- Restroom equity is one of many broad, complex issues that relate to gender inclusivity, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, anti-biphobia, and anti-cissexism, but it is an issue that ASA has the power and resources to resolve relatively easily and quickly for members and attendees of the ASA national meeting.
— Different groups of people (cis and trans people; queer and straight people; men, women, and other genders, people of different religious groups, etc.) have differences in how they conceptualize safety and privacy in the restroom, and different scripts of how to use restrooms. These differences, especially regarding restrooms scripts, may come in conflict as people (particularly cisgender heterosexuals) adjust to AG restrooms. All people should be mindful and exercise kindness and restraint with others that display restrooms uses that are in conflict with theirs. Generally, this means exercising “civil inattention” (politely ignoring others) and respecting the privacy of any individual you encounter in a restroom, regardless of AG or BGS status. No one at ASA may interfere with anyone else’s use of a restroom, regardless of AG or BGS status.
— Equity here is defined as much as reasonably possible providing an even balance between BGS and AG restrooms. Members of many groups may not agree that equity should be defined in this way. Some members of trans communities may wish to make all restrooms AG. There are some ASA members that would have all restrooms be BGS. This definition of restroom equity is itself a debate and should change over time as standards change.
— Equity after long periods of inequality will not feel like equity to either the formerly marginalized, those newly cognizant of how the world was organized in their favor, or those now aware of how different equity feels than ways that they were used to restrooms previously. Those in favor of more AG restrooms will likely think there are not enough. Those used to only or primarily BGS restrooms will likely experience a feeling of there being “many” AG restrooms. Again, all people should be mindful and kind with others during this time.
— Restroom numbers, locations, and signage will be setup to minimize conflicts, provide equitable access to as many people as possible, and direct people to other restrooms if the one nearest them is not suitable for their needs.
— Restroom equity is not an issue that can be figured out once and never revisited again but must be observed for each conference and these principles and procedures revisited.
— High use floors will be divided between all gender (AG) and binary gender segregated (BGS) restrooms nearest to 50% as possible. We focus on high traffic areas to increase equity for the most participants and decrease the impact of some less-desirable choices made because of hotel layouts and contracts.
— ASA Meeting Services does not have the ability to convert restrooms to AG that ASA does not have contractual power over. Restrooms are assigned to contracts on the basis of use of nearby rooms, floor percentage use, and other factors.
— When converting restrooms to AG, both formerly BGS restrooms (“men’s” and “women’s”) will be converted so as to not put undue pressure on only one of the binary genders to facilitate gender inclusivity. Where there is only one set of restrooms on a floor or only one can be changed for contractual reasons, the floor likely to have more traffic will be converted to AG with the other nearest area left as BGS.
Reasoning: Thus, we have ‘weighted’ AG restrooms slightly. This increases overall throughput of users of restrooms at the conference to reduce wait time. Stalls in formerly BGS “men’s” rooms will be available for use by people of all genders. BGS “women’s” restrooms often experience backup, and this acts as an anti-sexism restroom equity measure, as well. Closing only the one BGS restroom without urinals is often a major point of frustration with AG restrooms with cis women and feminine presenting people who use BGS women’s restrooms. Since both BGS restrooms will be converted, this means some AG restrooms will contain urinals. People of many genders use urinals. Urinals help increase the speed of restroom use and throughput of restrooms in the conference. Closing urinals is often a major point of frustration for cis men and masculine presenting people who use BGS men’s restrooms.
— Signage on all bathrooms should announce what kind of restroom, AG or BGS, a person is about to walk into.
— Signage at the major entry points to floors should provide information on where to find all kinds of restrooms.
— Signage on AG restrooms should make every reasonable effort to cover former signs of the BGS of the restrooms.
— Signage on all restrooms should make every reasonable effort to be inclusive of people of different abilities.
List of Restrooms at the 2019 ASA Meeting:
Jason Orne, as member of Status and head of REI, met with Michelle Randel (Director, Meeting Services, ASA) to do the 2019 walkthrough of the Hilton and Sheridan Hotels that will host the 2019 ASA National Meeting. As Chair of Caucus, they represented that group and was also the designated representative of the S4TJ. Jason and Michelle implemented the above principles and procedures as best as possible.