The city of Charlotte is converting two single-sex bathrooms in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center to unisex ones – more than two months after the General Assembly mandated that people use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth certificate in government buildings.
The city said it’s updating the bathrooms so they are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the change will also give transgender people bathroom options when visiting the Government Center, whether it’s for a City Council meeting or to pay a water bill.
When the City Council first discussed its nondiscrimination ordinance more than a year ago, a controversy erupted during the meeting when a transgender woman attempted to use the women’s restroom. Some people asked a police officer to remove her from the bathroom.
After that, City Manager Ron Carlee said that transgender individuals could use the bathroom of their identified gender in city buildings.
House Bill 2, passed by legislators in March, undid that. The controversial law also nullified the city’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance, which extended legal protections to gay, lesbian and transgender individuals.
HB2 has meant that a transgender woman attending a City Council meeting would have needed to use the men’s bathroom unless she has a sex-change operation and had her birth certificate changed. The renovations will give her the option to use a unisex bathroom on the second floor instead.
The city this week quietly began construction on the two bathrooms, which will cost $8,200. Carlee said there are still single-sex bathrooms nearby.
“Because of high level of public use on the second floor and our desire to accommodate the widest range of users, we’re making these modest changes in an area where there are four sets of restrooms,” Carlee said.
The move to gender-neutral bathrooms is also happening at Charlotte-area private businesses, which are able to set their own bathroom policies under HB2. Businesses, including Common Market in Plaza Midwood and Summit Cofffee in Davidson, have changed bathroom signs to make them gender neutral.
The change in the Government Center involves more than changing the signs. Before it was closed for construction, the men’s bathroom being renovated had one stall and one urinal.
The stall and urinal will remain. The swinging door that allowed entrance to the entire bathroom will be replaced with a lockable door, according to a building permit filed with Mecklenburg County last week.
In the old women’s bathroom, the plan calls for a new urinal to be added where there was once a toilet. The bathroom will also have a new lockable door.
Both bathrooms will become single-occupancy.
When finished, the bathrooms will also have new baby-changing stations as well as some features to comply with the ADA.
The bathrooms used to allow for two men and two women to use the bathroom at once, but the new configuration will allow for only two people at one time.
The city said it has no plans to make any other bathrooms unisex.
“The second-floor restrooms in the Government Center are the only restrooms planned for renovation at this time,” Carlee said. “However, city facilities are regularly assessed for maintenance and renovation.”