Gender-neutral restrooms urged

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Three town residents Tuesday night urged the board of selectmen to make the proposed new downtown public restrooms “gender neutral” rather than designating one for men and one for women.

Marjory Russakoff said that would eliminate any embarrassment for “a caregiver with an opposite sex person who is being cared for … a parent with an opposite sex child of a certain age … or a transgendered person.”

She said all public restrooms should be handicapped accessible with a sign on the door that allows people of either gender to use it.

“These days, when we have a big event and they bring in Porta-Potties, those are not designated for either sex, and it’s not an issue,” Russakoff said. She noted that a number of cities now require that all new public restrooms be gender neutral.

Her husband, Miff Lauriat, said, “There’s no reason why we should start this brand-new bathroom project with any kind of discrimination about who can use what side.”

Clara Baker, who directs Health Acadia’s gender diversity project, told the selectmen that restrooms designated for men and women can create discomfort for transgender people, particularly children.

“The experience of having to go into a bathroom with an emblem on it that doesn’t match the identity in the child’s head is a really painful, anxiety-inducing experience,” she said.

Board of selectmen chairman Dan Norwood said the board would take their request into consideration in planning the new restrooms. The new facilities are to be built on the site of the existing restrooms behind Veterans Memorial Park at the end of Village Green Way.

Town Manager Don Lagrange has estimated the cost of construction to be about $98,000. Voters at town meeting next month will be asked to authorize taking up to $84,000 from surplus for the project. The rest would come from a capital improvement account.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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