Women who have been in the hospital for a period of time often need to share a bathroom with a man who is menstruating or is bleeding.
This isn’t just for the convenience of the person needing it, but also because men often don’t know that a woman’s period is over.
But in a new report, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) have discovered that in some parts of the country, the gender-specific restrooms can be very uncomfortable for women and sometimes even dangerous.
A few states have also banned trans people from using bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.
“When we talk about a national movement, we have to be very careful,” NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling told TechCrunch.
“There are a lot of things that we need to look at and work through.”
In some states, there are no gender-based restroom options, and transgender people must use the men’s facility.
In others, gender-binary options are not available.
Keislings said that, while these aren’t all-encompassing policies, they do represent a change.
“It’s the beginning of a much bigger movement that will be very difficult to achieve without the support of the federal government,” she said.
“The U.S. has a lot more work to do.”
But while there are still some hurdles to jump over, Keisings believes that this is a step in the right direction.
“These are steps in the wrong direction,” she told TechHub.
“But we need the government to do more.”
The report, titled “Unpacking the Gender Gap,” looked at gender-affirmative restroom policies in five states: California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, and Missouri.
The study found that in a majority of these states, men are allowed to use the women’s facility in a way that would cause discomfort to a woman.
However, in states that require trans people to use men’s facilities, women often have to choose between being comfortable with their gender or being able to share their restroom with a cisgender male.
The report found that transgender women are often denied access to these facilities due to gender-related discrimination.
Transgender people who use the facility with a male are often seen as “women’s property” and “women who use women’s bathrooms are women’s property,” according to the report.
“For trans people, this discrimination is very common,” Keislers said.
“[They’re] not given a right to be in the women-only space, and we have been denied that.”
NCTE is calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the policy and ensure that all states that have enacted gender-reassignment laws adhere to them.
But while gender-sensitive restroom policies are a step forward, Keysling says they’re not going to solve the problem of bathroom discrimination in the United States.
“We are not going back to the pre-recession era of women using women’s facilities.
We have to look to a future in which women are allowed in the men-only spaces and not in the spaces for trans people,” she added.
NCTE also believes that the solution is to make trans people feel like they have a space of their own.
“This is something that has to be talked about and that is the way to go,” Keyslings said.
The National Center For Transgender Equality also launched the Gender Inclusive America campaign in January 2017, and the group hopes to expand it to include other issues in the future.
“What we want to do is to try and make it clear to everyone that we are not against gender,” Keeslings said, adding that the organization is committed to getting a federal policy that allows trans people access to the men and women restrooms of their choice.
“So when we see trans people use a restroom, we know that we have our own bathroom, and when we go into that restroom, they know that they can be themselves,” she continued.
“If they feel safe, we are happy to have that, because we are with them.
And when they don’t feel safe—it’s time to move on.”
NCTe is also encouraging the Trump administration to pass Title IX and other federal legislation that addresses gender-disparate housing, and to work to make public school systems more gender-inclusive.
“I think we have a really good case, a very solid case, that these are important things that are happening and they need to happen right now,” Keielsen said.
NCTe also recently released its own report on how to fix the gender gap.
This includes how to close the gender pay gap, end bullying and harassment in schools, and provide safe spaces for transgender people.
The NCTE report can be read in its entirety here.