Frequently asked questions about Multnomah County's gender-neutral restrooms rule

June 12, 2013

What’s happening?
County Chair Jeff Cogen on June 11 issued an executive rule that ensures any new county buildings – as well as remodels of existing county buildings – will take into account the issue of gender-neutral bathrooms.

What are gender-neutral bathrooms?
Gender-neutral bathrooms are toileting facilities, either single room or multiple stalls, which are designated for use by any person or persons, regardless of sex or gender identity.

Why take this action?
Multnomah County is committed to respecting diversity and equity, and it’s essential to both those values that people should not have to worry about one of the most basic human needs – going to the toilet. In addition to removing unnecessary barriers for transgender people and helping to move toward LGBTQ civil-right equality, gender-neutral bathrooms will also benefit families, older people and people who need help while in the bathroom.

Any other benefits?
Unisex bathrooms often save money and space in a building because one unisex bathroom can do the work of two bathrooms separated by gender.

What’s the authority that allows the chair to take this action?
Multnomah County’s Code authorizes the Chair to do all things necessary and proper to manage county property, so that such property is put to its highest and best public use.

Has any other Oregon county taken this action on gender-neutral bathrooms?
No, Multnomah County is the first. However, Grant High School in Northeast Portland has already gone forward with a half-dozen unisex bathrooms to be responsive to its transgender students.

How about outside Oregon?
Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., have taken steps similar to Multnomah County’s.

This rule covers new and remodeled Multnomah County buildings. Will there be any changes in existing county buildings?
Yes. The county will identify existing gender-neutral bathrooms through low-cost efforts such as signs directing visitors to existing gender-neutral bathrooms or posting new signs on current bathrooms. Those efforts have already taken place at the Multnomah Building, in Portland at 501 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.

Anything else?
Yes. The county also will conduct an inventory of gender non-specific bathrooms in all county buildings, so gaps in access for transgender people can be identified.