If you’ve used a public restroom in Tacoma recently, you may have noticed something new.
As of June 1, all single-occupancy public restrooms — restrooms that can be used by a single individual at a time — must be labeled with gender-neutral signage.
That includes new or existing restrooms in public schools, hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, theaters, stadiums and any other facility open to the public.
The signs will replace those that show the bathroom only can be used by a male or female. Multi-stall restrooms still can use male/female signs.
“The requirement is intended to address the needs and rights of individuals who identify as transgender and non-binary and remove institutional and systematic barriers to accessing public spaces,” the city of Tacoma stated on its website.
Examples of gender-neutral signs include the words “washroom,” “all gender restroom,” “gender-neutral restroom,” “unisex,” and/or images that show the restroom can be used by all people regardless of gender identity.
Tacoma City Council approved the requirement in November.
“The City outreached to all businesses with a City of Tacoma business license between January and June leading up to the ordinance change to ensure businesses received notification of the change,” city spokeswoman Megan Snow said.
The ordinance was requested by the Human Rights Commission and Pierce County Pride at Work, which represents LGBTQ union members. According to a 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 59 percent of transgender people avoided using a public restroom for fear of confrontation while 32 percent limited the amount they ate and drank to avoid using a public restroom.
On June 11, Tacoma City Council passed first reading of an ordinance amending the city building code to reflect the requirement. Signage also must be inclusive to those who are disabled and sight-impaired.
Violators of the code will be subject to penalties in Tacoma Municipal Code 1.82, which include fines of $100 for the first day of the violation up to $500 per day.
Violations can be reported at cityoftacoma.org/TacomaFIRST or by calling 311.