“Single-User, Gender-Neutral, Accessible, Lockable Rest Rooms” in UMC Churches by 2020


“Single-User, Gender-Neutral, Accessible, Lockable Rest Rooms” in UMC Churches by 2020

On Tue., July 23, 2019, in my former home-state of North Carolina, The State Supreme Court ruled that the state of NC cannot use House Bill 142 (which replaced the hated HB 2) “to prevent transgender individuals from using public restrooms and other facilities in state government buildings that match their gender under an agreement approved today by a federal court.” For years, NC was well-known for “House Bill 2” or “Hate Bill 2,” which denied transgender people the right to use public restrooms to match their gender
These so-called new “bathroom” or “restroom” bills—that state that bathrooms and restrooms should be gender neutral—are very important in our society for all. To state the obvious, the passing of these laws signal that “male” or “female” are no longer relevant for bathrooms or restrooms, making it easier for people who are transgender to use a bathroom. For years, many people who are transgender or gender non-conforming faced harassment, violence, and threats of arrest in using bathrooms or restrooms that are specifically for “men” or “women.”

Using a bathroom without fear of violence or harassment is a human right, not a privilege. The growing number of gender neutral bathrooms is not just for LGBTQ+ people, but for all people. In essence, what these bills are doing is moving our society one stop closer toward being a world in which we are normalizing not only gender-neutral bathrooms and restrooms, but a world that is embracing equality and equity among all.  The hope is that gender-neutral bathrooms and restrooms will be located in our schools, our public buildings, highway rest areas, businesses, and, yes, even in our communities of faith. 
On this issue, the OR-ID United Methodist Church Conference is not behind the times. In June 2015, under “Annual Conference Actions and Resolutions,” AR05, “Single-use, Gender-neutral, Accessible, Lockable Rest Rooms,” the majority voted the following: “In order to provide facilities that protect human dignity, offer safe spaces, and equalize access, we recommend that each United Methodist Church in the OR-ID Annual Conference by 2020 have at least one rest room in each church building designated as single-user gender neutral, accessible and lockable. Each congregation will be invited to report its progress toward this goal for each session of Annual Conference. We also request that churches add a child-sized commode and lavatory where this is feasible.”
A perfect example of how this will all work is shown throughout modern society, in which porta-potties are spotted all over fair grounds and special events over the spring, summer, and early fall seasons. There are no porta-potties marked “Male” or “Female” or “Gender Neutral,” and no one seems to have an issue with these gender-neutral porta-potties. 
There are six months till it is Jan. 1, 2020. So, folks out in the many churches of the OR-ID UMC Annual Conference: what’s the status of your individual church in Oregon and southern Idaho towards meeting this recommendation? Do you have at least one bathroom that is gender-neutral and well-marked in your building? This issue seems like something so simple, yet will cost money, time, and effort in meeting this goal. Here’s hoping that the OR-ID UMC Conference will respect and act on this recommendation for one and all.  Again, this is not a privilege. This is a human right. This is a matter of justice for all, even in our churches.

Brett Webb-Mitchell
Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell is an openly gay Presbyterian pastor in the Portland area serving as the part-time LGBTQ+ advocacy coordinator for The Oregon-Idaho Conference of the UMC. He can be reached at brett@umoi.org. Become a subscriber to the Greater NW Pride blog to get Greater NW Pride in your email box!