Metro Weekly

D.C. installs first multi-user “all gender” bathrooms in Reeves Center

Sheila Alexander-Reid (left) and Monica Palacio – Photo: Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs

On Thursday, the D.C. Office of Human Rights, D.C. Department of General Services, and the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs announced that the city has installed the first “all gender” restrooms in a government building in the District. The two restrooms, which are located in the Reeves Center, at 2000 14th St. NW, are designed for use by multiple people at the same time and are accessible by anyone of any gender.

Mónica Palacio, the director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights, and Sheila Alexander-Reid, the director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, held a small ceremony to announce the opening of the restrooms. Later, Reid posted on the Office of LGBTQ Affairs Facebook page: “It’s a great day at the Reeves Center! We installed all gender restrooms! This is a step toward making sure that all transgender and gender nonconforming people have access to the assistance our office provides and access to the The DC Center. #DCProud.

“Today as a city we took a significant step in ensuring that all individuals have safe access to the restroom of their choice,” Palacio said in a statement. “While all gender restrooms are not yet commons, we hope this first display will begin to turn the tide of fear and increase understanding and tolerance of all individuals — no matter how they identify. The Reeves Center is a staple fixture in District government and the surrounding community, and couldn’t be a better launch pad for this very important and progressive effort.”

Currently, D.C. law mandates that all single-stall restroom facilities must be designated as gender neutral, but every government building in the District that was designed for multiple users was designated for either one of two genders, male or female.

The idea for installing all gender restrooms in government buildings came about from a petition, launched a year-and-a-half ago by The DC Center for the LGBT Community that had asked for the installation of at least one such restroom in the Reeves Center, which houses The DC Center’s offices. 

“We have a lot of genderqueer groups that meet here on a regular basis, so it only made sense that we have restrooms that are open to all,” says David Mariner, the executive director of The DC Center.

The DC Center submitted the petition to the Office of Mayor Muriel Bowser and to the Department of General Services. Subsequently, The DC Center has advocated that any government building in the District with more than six multi-user public restrooms be required to designate at least one as available to all people, regardless of their gender. Mariner says he hopes other offices will follow the lead of the Reeves Center.

“I think it’s great,” he says of the two restrooms. “I think it’s an important step forward, and I think this should be standard practice for any government building in D.C.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com