Legal Questions With Yetta Kurland, Attorney-At-Law

Advice on questions of using bathrooms consistent with gender identity.

Dear Yetta,
 
I am a transgender person and I would like to use public bathrooms that fit my identity (not my sex assigned at birth). However, I have come across numerous articles discussing bathroom laws, specifically for transgender individuals, and I am not sure what my rights are. Can you please explain if I can use public restrooms that fit my identity? Thank you!
 
— Mohendra
 
Dear Mohendra,
 
Great question. As absurd as this may seem, the United States is currently in a national debate about whether to allow transgender people to use bathrooms that comport with their gender. Whether it be in employment, public accommodations or in public schools, transgender access to restrooms has been a controversial topic and has created a wave of legislative and judicial actions, both discriminatory and non-discriminatory. Most recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit determined that a lower court should have deferred to the federal government’s assertion that Title IX protects transgender students access to bathrooms. More specifically, this decision allowed a transgender student to sue under Title IX for discrimination because he was not allowed to use the boys’ locker room.
 
In addition, states and cities across the United States have taken a stance on this issue. For example, North Carolina passed a law that actually prohibits transgender people from using a restroom that aligns with their gender, and makes it illegal. In stark contrast, cities such as New York have passed laws that ban discrimination based on gender identity in public accommodations, thus allowing transgender men and women to use the bathroom with the safety and protection they should be able to expect.
 
Even more encouraging, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Commission on Human Rights launched the nation’s first government led citywide ad campaign affirming the right to use bathrooms consistent with gender identity. In addition, several organizations have boycotted states that have anti-transgender laws. Numerous others have contributed to the discussion through social media; for example, the cast of Broadway’s “Kinky Boots” put out a public service announcement video with the whole cast dancing and singing lyrics about respecting individuality, in their efforts to educate people about repealing North Carolina’s bathroom bill. Check it out at www.youtube.com/watch?v=APeAXKmkVcI.
 
If you experience mistreatment or discrimination based on your use of any public accommodation due to your identity as a transgender, lesbian, gay or bisexual person, please consult with an attorney with discrimination experience to discuss not only federal, but state and municipal laws and ordinances that may give you additional protection. I hope this is helpful. Good luck!
 
— Yetta Kurland
 
Email questions to to kurland@kurlandassociates.com or call 212-253-6911.
 
This column is not a consultation with an attorney and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with legal issues or concerns should seek the advice of their own attorney.