Bill looks to make single-occupant restrooms gender-neutral

By: Fatemeh Paryavi, Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Many public buildings in Maryland would be required to make their single-occupant bathrooms gender neutral under legislation in the state’s General Assembly.

The proposed law would require public facilities to change their pictorial or gender-exclusive signage for single-toilet bathrooms to gender neutral, according to the bill’s state legislative analysis.

It would apply to places of “public accommodation,” including hotels, theaters, sports venues, restaurants and other similar facilities.

The lead sponsor of Senate bill 401, Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery, told Capital News Service last week that new signs could be purchased online for as little as $15.

The bill would make more restrooms available for women, who tend to wait in lengthier bathroom lines than men, Kagan said at the hearing Wednesday.

She added that it would ensure that people with disabilities wouldn’t need to navigate the building in order to find a gender-specific restroom, as well as making it easier for parents and caretakers to enter the restroom in order to assist their family member or patient.

The bill would also aim to help people who are transgender to feel more comfortable using the single-occupant restrooms, she said at the hearing.

Localities would be allowed to set their own fines, not to exceed $250, under this legislation.

The bill has bipartisan support, as Sen. Chris West, R-Baltimore County, is co-sponsoring the legislation.

Silvie Gallardo, the mother of an 8-year-old child from Bethesda, Maryland, said her son is on the autism spectrum, and testified in favor of the bill at its Wednesday hearing.

She said that she’s not asking lawmakers to provide an attendant for her son, she’s asking them to remove a label so that she can more comfortably help her son use the restroom.

The MoCo Pride Center submitted written testimony in support of the bill, writing that it would be more welcoming to “transgender, non-binary or gender non-conforming people.”

The bill also saw support from businesses. The Greener Kitchen in Baltimore submitted testimony in support of the bill, writing that it “prioritizes having gender inclusive restrooms in our space because we believe in making our restaurant accessible to all.”

An identical House bill, 1147, is set to have a hearing on March 3 led by sponsor Delegate Jared Solomon, D-Montgomery.

Opening up on the page

Women writers speak up

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Looking for a solution to gender discrimination and number of other pervasive women’s issues, Tracy Dimond and three D.C. writers decided to start a zine where female- identified contributors could share about them.

“We wanted to make a safe space to talk about it because there has been so much silencing,” Dimond said, who is also working on an MFA in  Creative Writing and Publishing Arts.

The zine invites women to discuss sexism, verbal abuse, fear, and anger as well as physical abuse and sexual assault. Contributors are encouraged to express ideas, social criticism and solutions.

“Writers can remain anonymous,” Dimond said. “No one has to name names.”

The zine is accepting collage and other types of artwork in addition to prose and poetry.

The editors are currently in the process of choosing a title for their publication. Another recent topic of discussion is the best way to create an internet presence.

The first issue is due out at the end of January and the editors are planning a small distribution at Baltimore and D.C. readings.

Anyone interested in contributing to future issues or in receiving updates can contact Dimond at tradimond@gmail.com.

Professional counselors are available to assist any UB student wishing to report a sexual offense. Reports can be made at the University of Baltimore Counseling Center located in the Academic Center, Room 111. Counselors may be able to keep student information confidential within certain parameters, according to the University of Baltimore’s Sexual Assault Misconduct Policy. Exceptions to the confidentiality rule can occur when child abuse is involved or if there is a court order. The policy states that the university will work to maintain the confidentiality of the reporting party to the extent that it does not impair the ability of the institution to provide protection for the UB community as a whole.

Students may also file an informal or formal complaint with the University of Baltimore Deputy Title IX Coordinator located in the Office of Community Life. If both parties involved wish to resolve the issue cooperatively and the coordinator determines that there is no violation of UB policy, then UB encourages an informal resolution. Complaints of sexual assault are not permitted to be resolved informally. The policy strongly suggests that any formal complaints be made within ten business days of the incident in order to maximize the odds of a resolution. The University’s Sexual Assault Misconduct Policy can be found at: http://www.ubalt.edu/policies/ human-resources/non-discrimination.

The University of Baltimore is committed to keeping the campus a safe space.

“We are often hesitant to speak out because we’re afraid of judgment, we don’t believe people will care,” reads Dimond’s flyer. “No one needs an invitation to speak, but we’ve found that asking helps.”

Photo Credit: Kim Rempel (via publicdo-mainpictures.net)