Gender-Inclusive Bathrooms at #ASA18 in Philadelphia, PA

By Jason Orne, Ph.D.

Dr. Jason Orne is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Drexel University. He is also a member of the ASA Committee on the Status of LGBTQ Persons in Sociology, and serves as the Event Coordinator for the ASA Sociologists’ LGBTQ Caucus.

The safety, inclusion, and well-being of trans, non-binary, genderqueer, and intersex people at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association is a priority of the ASA Committee on Status of LGBTQ Persons in Sociology, the Sociologists’ LGBTQ Caucus, and Sociologists for Trans Justice. As many are aware, bathroom accommodations at previous meetings have not met the goals or standards of these groups nor of these communities.

To attempt to fix some of the problems that we’ve had at past ASA annual meetings with bathroom accommodations, I attended a walkthrough of the conference space as a local representative of the Sociologists’ LGBTQ Caucus, the ASA Committee on Status of LGBTQ Persons in Sociology, and Sociologists for Trans Justice. I discussed the goals and needs of gender-inclusive bathroom accommodations with ASA’s Director of Meeting Services Michelle Randall. We conducted a site visit, visually inspecting each bathroom in the space, and discussing how and which bathrooms to convert.

A quick summary for those who don’t wish to read about the whole process and decisions: While we pushed for all bathrooms to be converted from gender-segregated to gender-inclusive, we managed to negotiate about 50% of them to be converted. Not all bathrooms in the conference space were “owned” (i.e., ASA has the controlling rights in the bathroom because of nearby room rentals) by ASA, so some couldn’t be converted to gender-inclusive. We converted high-traffic area restrooms over low-traffic ones. In general, if you are in a location, one of the two closest sets of restrooms was designated all-gender. In all cases, if a set was converted, both the “men’s” and “women’s” restrooms were converted to gender-inclusive (unlike previous years when only the “women’s” was converted). There will be plenty of signage to let people know how to find the inclusive restrooms. While I didn’t get everything I wanted, I hope that this process can be used in the future to keep pushing for bathrooms to be a non-issue at ASA meetings. Bathroom equity and access for all!

If you’d like to know more about the exact bathrooms, and the process to reach them, read on!


I’ll start by discussing our goals for the process so it’s clear why and how the process resulted in the restrooms that we have.

Every effort was made to convert as many of the restrooms as possible to all-gender. While I would have liked to change all but maybe one set of bathrooms to all-gender, we agreed on parity since some ASA members have vocally demanded gender-segregated restrooms. (Please read that with my Liz Lemon eye-roll). If there couldn’t be parity in an area, like a floor with only one set of restrooms, we gave preference to the all-gender restrooms. Any room with a tampon dispenser will include a sign that reads, “Products are available for purchase in this room for those that menstruate.” Any room with a urinal is going to have the urinal left open, for those of any gender who wish to use them.

Unfortunately, and this is a constraint that I wanted to make sure all relevant constituencies understand when a room wasn’t turned all-gender, if ASA doesn’t “own” the areas near the restroom, we aren’t able to convert the restroom. So, in a large conference space, this sometimes means that nearby bathrooms weren’t converted. We tried to also account for this though by converting other nearby restrooms to all-gender to compensate. Therefore, more than 50% of the rooms that ASA “owns” were converted to compensate for the perception that there were more restrooms around on a floor that were not converted.

Relatedly, we also talked about the issue of sufficient signage. Michelle took pictures of each sign that will be covered to make sure, when possible, that ASA made something to cover it with a sign that says “all gender” and has a symbol of a toilet. If there are both a gender-segregated and an all-gender set of restrooms on a floor, like the first one below, I asked Michelle to make a small sign near the main entrance of that area to direct people to the all-gender restroom.

Philadelphia Marriott Downtown

Starting at the Marriott, the first image is on the 5th floor. There are two sets of bathrooms. The one on the right will remain gender-segregated, while the left side bathroom will be converted to all-gender.

Floor 4 is another busy floor. It has only one restroom, and it was converted to all-gender.

Floor 3 has very small rooms and will not have much traffic. It will remain gender-segregated.

 Pennsylvania Convention Center

Over at the Convention Center over the skyway, ASA will rent the ground floor spaces between N. 12th and N. 13th Streets. There are four sets of bathrooms. Two of them were converted to all-gender, at a crisscross so that someone is always near an all-gendered bathroom near them.

Up on the exhibit floor, there are only one set of bathrooms in ASA’s Exhibit Hall. These were converted. Unfortunately, there are giant gender-segregated signs about two stories up so you can see them across the whole exhibit space. ASA would have to rent one of those arms to get someone up there to drape them. So, while there are going to be giant gender-segregated signs, the rooms themselves are all-gender, and all ground level gender-segregated signs will be changed to our all-gender signs.

There are some bathrooms on that floor that cannot be converted to all-gender because they will not be “owned” by ASA. There is a pair of restrooms on that floor near registration that will be converted to all-gender.

To conclude, this is a great set of bathrooms. We tried to get as many converted as possible. I hope over time we can also cater less and less to ASA members who “need” gender-segregated bathrooms, instead forcing them to travel to a set of gender-segregated bathrooms if they need them that badly. This is a start.

If you have thoughts, whether supportive or criticism, please communicate them to Sociologists for Trans Justice, the ASA Sociologists’ LGBTQ Caucus, and the ASA Committee on the Status of LGBTQ Persons in Sociology. We have so many needed changes at ASA for gender inclusion.

I hope that this is the year we can say that everyone had the bathroom access that they deserve.