Map helps trans people find safe bathrooms in North Carolina

Posted at 4:09 PM, Mar 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-31 16:24:28-04

One woman is mapping out where trans people can use public restrooms in North Carolina.

Under the new House Bill 2, or HB2, which was signed into law March 24, transgender people must use restrooms based on the gender listed on their birth certificate.

There has been backlash against the law from LGBT community members, allies of transgender people and businesses.

“We have seen the backlash, with more than 80 companies already signing on to a letter calling for repeal. The ACLU has brought suit against what is undoubtedly unconstitutional legislation,” Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro told CNN affiliate WNCN.

As a fight wages over the fate of HB2, one question remains: Where are trans people supposed to use the bathroom?

Emily Waggoner, a former North Carolinian, created a Google Map that helps trans people find a safe place to use the bathroom. The Safe Bathrooms map has pins, in the shape of toilet rolls, on businesses in North Carolina that have stated publicly that their bathrooms are safe for trans and gender nonconforming people.

Waggoner now lives in Boston, but she and her partner, who is transgender, grew up in North Carolina.

“Preparing for possible harassment and violence in the bathroom is the norm for many trans and gender nonconforming folks, including my partner, and now our North Carolina friends are doing so in a hostile environment where they are not protected by the law,” she said.

As of Thursday, the map has over 120 businesses listed and more than 100,000 views.

“It has now become a platform for business owners to raise their voices and band together and fight against this legislation,” Waggoner said.

Trans people and businesses are making use of the map. Many business owners have expressed gratitude to Waggoner for creating a platform that allows them to take a stand and declare their support.

“The map also allows them to see each other, and draw courage and strength from all the other businesses that have spoken out,” she said.

Many trans people and allies are traveling to North Carolina to protest, and are using the map as a resource.

Several of Waggoner’s friends were planning to cancel their North Carolina vacation after the bill was passed. But instead of canceling the trip, her friends “are using the map as a travel guide and supporting the businesses who have stepped up in opposition,” she said.

James Sheffield, a trans man who lives in Georgia, frequently travels to North Carolina. He told CNN that the new law makes him feel unsafe to travel through the state.

The map is a “creative approach,” Sheffield said. “At the same time, how tremendously sad is it that any human being would need a map to locate a safe place just to go to the bathroom?”