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San Diego Unveils First Gender-Neutral Restrooms Inside A Public Facility

A gender neutral bathroom sign hangs in the University Heights Library Branch, Dec. 1, 2016.
Claire Trageser
A gender neutral bathroom sign hangs in the University Heights Library Branch, Dec. 1, 2016.

San Diego now has its first gender-neutral bathrooms in a city-owned building.

The change was made at the University Heights branch library, which used to have two, single stall restrooms, one for men and one for women.

Under a new state law, all single-user toilets in businesses or public places will have to be made gender-neutral by March 1.

But City Councilman Todd Gloria said the change at University Heights was already in the works before the law was passed.

"Now more than ever I’m proud that the city continues to be a leader and a champion for equality and inclusion," he said. "Today’s designation of gender-neutral restrooms demonstrates our city’s unwavering commitment to the basic rights, respect and dignity of all people."

Gloria said the bathrooms will also help senior citizens who might need someone from the opposite gender to assist them and parents with small children.

The University Heights library has long been a safe space for San Diego's LGBT community and the new bathrooms will add to that sense of security, he said.

Sixteen-year-old transgender activist Lily Rubenstein was at the unveiling of the new bathroom signs. She said when she began transitioning, she was often told she was in the wrong bathroom and needed to get out.

"So the fact that we’re able to put up a place where I know I can go to the restroom without having the fear of being told I can’t be in there, without having the fear of asking someone if I’m allowed in there is a really great step," she said.

California State Assembly Bill 1732, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September, says all single-user public toilets must be labeled as "all-gendered" and calls for local officials to inspect facilities for code compliance.

The San Diego International Airport changed the signs on 12 of its single-stall public restrooms in 2015.

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