News (USA)

Philadelphia council member proposes gender-neutral restrooms

PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia city council member wants to require new or renovated city-owned buildings to have gender-neutral restrooms in addition to men’s and women’s restrooms.

The Philadelphia Daily News reports that the measure, introduced by Councilman Jim Kenney at the behest of the LGBT community, would also require transgender health benefits for city employees.

“It can be an awkward and embarrassing situation” for anyone who may “feel more like a woman, but can’t use the women’s room,” Kenney said. “These functions should be fair for everybody.”

Speakers at a recent committee hearing on the bill said transgendered youth faced discrimination in bathroom access.

“We’re talking about people who want to be respected, who want their personal identification to be respected and just want to blend in,” said state Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila., the first openly gay candidate to be elected to the Legislature, who had a role in shaping the measure.

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Rue Landau, executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, said the bill wouldn’t cost the city extra money because it already requires single-use wheelchair-accessible bathrooms in all of its buildings. The number of gender-neutral bathrooms required under the bill would depend on the size and use of a building.

The bill would also make online city websites and forms gender-neutral and establish transgender health benefits for city employees to cover psychotherapy, hormone treatments, laser hair removal and gender confirmation surgery.

“Life is hard for everybody and certain obstacles the government puts in the way intentionally or unintentionally make life harder for some more than others,” Kenney said, “and all we’re trying to do is streamline that down.”

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