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Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Committee
Minutes of the September 24, 2002 Meeting

Committee Members Present: Jason Alley, Virginia Benavidez, Kirsten Boyd, Sally Buchmann, Chris Caldeira, Scott Campbell, Chris Carnes, James DeVinny, Jay Dwyer, Julie Frank, Ted Guggenheim, Danny Kirchoff, Nancy Lawlor, Yoseñio Lewis, Kristine Oreskovich, Johnnie Pratt, Jorge Romero-Lozano, Lisa Scheff, Stephen Schwichow.

Committee Members Absent: Commissioner Theresa Sparks (excused), Virginia Benavidez, Melchor Bustamante, Chris Carnes, Ted Guggenheim (excused), Jordy Jones (excused), Lisa Scheff (excused), Morningstar Vancil.

Staff Present: Larry Brinkin, Jodie Marksamer (intern), Ellise Nicholson, Domenic Viterbo.

Guests Present: Cowen Conaghan, Sam Davis, Abe Doherty, Aidan Dunn, Edwardo Capulong, Jamison Green, Thea Hillman, Jacob Richards, Kim Singh. Bionka Stevens, Dylan Vade, Shawna Virago, Eli Wadley.

1. Call to Order and Roll Call:

Commissioner Knutzen called the meeting to order at 5:40 p.m. Mr. Brinkin called the roll.

2. Approval of Minutes of August 20, 2002:

Stephan Schwichow moved to approve the minutes as written. Kristine Oreskovich seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

3. Public Comments for Items Not on the Agenda: None.

4. Introduction of Jodie Marksamer, HRC Intern:

Larry Brinkin stated that the LGBTH division is pleased to have a fall intern from Northeastern Law School named Jodie Marksamer. Mr. Marksamer stated that he is currently a third year law student at Northeastern in Boston. He is planning on living in San Francisco full time beginning March 2003, and is excited to be working at the Human Rights Commission. He further stated that he is especially excited to be working at the HRC during a time when a lot of important work is going on with respect to revisions of the gender identity guidelines.

5. Panel on Gender Neutral Bathrooms:

Dylan Vade thanked members and the public for attending, and the LGBT Advisory Committee for hosting the panel. Mr. Vade stated that he and his colleague Chris Daley opened the newly formed Transgender Law Center three weeks ago. Mr. Vade stated that he was an intern at the HRC last summer, where he was excited to work especially because San Francisco has some of the most progressive and protective laws and guidelines protecting people on the basis of gender identity. He further stated that unfortunately these guidelines do not fully protect persons who do not identify as clearly male or female. Jodie Marksamer stated that he identifies as transgender, and does not feel that the male/female gender binary is fitting for him. He stated that he does not feel comfortable, welcome, or safe in either men's or women's bathrooms. His interest in bathrooms stems from both personal difficulties and his interest in larger social change. He explained that his and Mr. Vade's primary recommendation to the Commission at this point is to make all single stall bathrooms gender neutral.

Mr. Vade stated that last summer while interning at the HRC he surveyed over five hundred people. The results of his survey show that many people do not have safe bathroom access in either men's or women's restrooms. The surveys indicate that people are stared at, yelled at, chased out by security guards, and similarly harassed. This problem affects transgender people who do not identify as male or female, those that do, and many who don't identify as transgender at all, such as feminine men and butch women. In fact, the biggest category of people experiencing problems, according to Mr. Vade's survey, were butch women. Mr. Vade stated that in some cities, such as San Francisco and Boston, people have created maps of where gender neutral bathrooms exist.

Mr. Marksamer discussed the current state of the law regarding gender designation of bathrooms. He explained that the HRC enforces San Francisco's non-discrimination ordinance, which forbids discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The HRC guidelines currently state that persons can access the bathroom that corresponds with that person's gender identity. However, a lot of people in San Francisco are still being denied access because there is no bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Mr. Marksamer explained that no laws specifically prohibit single stall or multiple stall gender-neutral bathrooms. Nor is their any particular constitutional right to privacy that would prohibit either. Mr. Vade stated that he researched federal, California, and local regulations relating to segregation of bathrooms. He stated that no regulations specifically prohibit gender neutral bathrooms. A couple of regulations require one female and one male bathroom, but these are particular and limited.

Mr. Marksamer stated that because there are no laws that prohibit gender neutral bathrooms, there are already places across the country that have them. This is especially the case in universities and colleges across the country, none of which have reported any problems according to Mr. Marksamer's investigation. An Internet search on "co-ed bathroom and university" found twelve schools with co-ed bathrooms. Mr. Marksamer also noted that the YWCA building in Boston, MA has had a multi-stall gender neutral bathroom for the past three years without a problem. Further, the LGBT Center in New York City has had two multi-stall gender neutral bathrooms for the past year and has reported no problems. In fact, they report that people are happy and excited about these bathrooms because they expand bathroom access and take pressure off of deciding which bathroom to use. A number of bars and clubs in New York, especially those catering to LGBT patrons, reportedly have gender-neutral bathrooms as well. Finally, in other countries, such as Israel and Sweden, gender-neutral bathrooms are the norm.

Mr. Vade spoke about some of the hesitations he has heard expressed concerning gender-neutral bathrooms. He stated that some hesitations concern personal preferences. These include concerns about cleanliness, among other things. He stated that these preferences shouldn't outweigh the fact that discrimination is occurring. The second set of concerns relates to safety. He stated that this should not be downplayed, but that his goal is to provide safe bathroom access for everyone.

Mr. Marksamer discussed solutions. He stated that first, what can be done now is to require that all single person bathrooms be gender neutral. This requires no new construction, and thus carries no cost. There is no legal reason for single stall bathrooms to be sex segregated, and no safety or privacy issues. Moreover, it is already occurring throughout the city, and nearly everyone grew up in households with a single stall gender neutral bathroom. He suggests adding language to the HRC guidelines making this a requirement. The second phase of the project involves the formation of a community task force to recruit businesses and organizations to voluntarily convert multi-stall bathrooms to gender neutral ones, leaving at least one men's and women's room in the building. Studies should be done and information compiled showing that San Francisco is ready for this change and that it is necessary. This approach would allow people to get comfortable with gender neutral multi-stall bathrooms.

Next, ten panelists spoke briefly about their bathroom experiences. Terry Witherspoon, a third year law student at Northeastern University, stated that she attended college at UC Santa Cruz. She lived in a co-ed dorm with gender neutral bathrooms from 1991 to 1993. She stated that during that time she never heard of nor experienced any problems or incidences of assault. She stated that while it was weird the first day, it became the norm after that. Now it seems strange and unnecessary to go into the women's room.

Dee Hampton, an Oakland resident who works in San Francisco, stated that she identifies as a butch woman. She just wants somewhere to use the facilities that allows her to feel comfortable. When she goes into women's bathrooms, women look at her, walk out to check the sign, walk back in and look at her, etc. Now when she goes to the bathroom, she usually takes someone with her, such as her children. Her favorite places are those with gender neutral bathrooms. She said that she does not feel comfortable nor does she feel like she could pass in the men's bathroom. She stated that she loves it when she goes into an empty bathroom. If it's crowded, she always tries to grab the first stall and walks out quickly. Often, people follow her out of the bathroom and point at her. She also times her bathroom usage carefully to avoid people. If she is at the movies, she goes in the middle of the movie. At baseball games, she goes at an important point in the game. She stated that she thinks that having all single stall bathrooms be gender neutral is a simple, easy solution.

Christina Rodriguez stated that she is a male-to-female transgender person. In high school, she said that she used to go with her girlfriends into the girls' bathroom, but got suspended from school for doing so. When she was in Job Corps, she was placed in the male dorm, which she hated. They also made her use the men's bathroom. She stated that men did to her exactly what Dee Hampton, above, described happened to her in the women's room. They looked at her and went in and out, checking the sign on the door. She was scared that she'd get beat up.

Storm Florez stated that since he was a child he has been stopped, stared at, and harassed in bathrooms. People argue with him, intimidate him, and tell him he's in the wrong bathroom. This has occurred mostly in women's bathrooms. He feels most invisible in men's bathrooms, but also most unsafe. No matter which bathroom he is in, he feels like he's gonna get "caught." Airports are the worst. Generally, he is addressed as male or female equally wherever he goes, so he never knows how he'll be perceived. Public bathrooms are the main place where he experiences this fear. While in Austin, Texas, he came upon a bathroom titled "special needs." He felt great relief. It was clean, had a baby changing station, and a sharps container. He hopes to see this option become standard in the near future.

Eli Watley stated that while working with FTM International, he has heard hundreds of the stories being told today. He stated "we all have to pee and we all hold it." Before transitioning, he looked more ambiguous. He was harassed at school, so he would hold it. Because of this, he ultimately developed kidney and bladder infections. As he got older, he learned how to strategize better. Now he is just getting to know what it's like to use men's bathroom, but he still worries about harassment. People's ugly side [harassment] often comes out in bathrooms, at a time where he has no secret agenda, he just has to pee. He currently knows where all the gender-neutral bathrooms are in the city.

Shawna Virago, who works for Community United Against Violence, stated that for the transgender community, butch women, and genderqueers, bathroom access is the most frequent form of discrimination faced but the least acknowledged by advocates and politicians. She said that this [bathroom] discrimination remains a private problem and a private source of shame. This problem is too often framed as an individual problem as opposed to an institutional problem. She would like to see legislation making it mandatory that to do business in San Francisco, a company must have gender neutral bathrooms.

Cohen Conaghan stated that he is transgender, and he is homeless. For him, bathrooms are a huge problem. He said that a new resource center recently opened in the Mission where homeless people can take showers. The public bathrooms have private shower stalls. When one goes in to shower, one has to sign up for either the male or female bathroom. He did not know which to sign up for, and staff there did not know either. They told him to use whichever he felt comfortable with, but he didn't feel comfortable in either. He stated that there is no need for private shower stalls to be segregated. In the past few months he has been going through transition, and he doesn't really pass as one or other gender. He often "holds it" and causes himself physical pain. He has been doing that for many years. He often feels impending dread that someone will "catch" him in the bathroom. He doesn't feel safe in the men's room mainly for fear that someone will notice his feet facing the wrong direction while peeing, so he will wait until someone turns on the dryer so they won't hear him peeing.

Abe Doherty stated that he tends to pass as male but lived for five years identifying as male but not taking testosterone. He got a lot of looks and felt unsafe. He participated in a self-defense class for butches and FTMs. Almost everyone in that class felt most uncomfortable and unsafe in bathrooms than anywhere else. He noted that this is a serious issue for everybody speaking.

Johnnie Pratt stated that he is a member of this Committee and also works at the LGBT Community Center in San Francisco. He went to college in the Bible belt with gender neutral bathrooms in his dorm and there were never any problems. He is sad to report that the LGBT Center does not have gender neutral bathrooms, which is in part why he wanted to bring this issue to the Committee. There are single stall gender neutral bathrooms on the first floor of the building, but if they are in use, he is out of luck. He is just beginning to transition, and in the men's bathroom in the center, even queer people look at him like "what the hell are you doing in here." He said that this is a serious issue for those who don't have a place to pee. He often "holds it" in his office waiting for City College classes to end.

James Green stated that he was of indeterminate sex for most of life and had bathroom problems. Even after transition, in the men's bathroom he would worry about how people would react to his feet pointing the wrong way. He stated that he was in a gender neutral multi-stall bathroom in Sweden. He thought it was really great. No one has to worry, and it was not a big deal. He stated that bathroom gender segregation has created a huge stress in our culture. Multi-stall gender neutral bathrooms would be a slight cultural shift, but they are really possible. He commends the Committee for looking into this.

During the question and answer period, Committee member Sally Buchmann stated the she is on the SEIU union negotiating team, and she thinks the union should request gender neutral bathrooms and pledges to work on that. Member James DeVinny inquired as to how businesses would be notified should the change be enacted. Larry Brinkin stated that when a law passed one year ago requiring businesses to post an anti-discrimination poster, the HRC got a list of all businesses in the City and did a mailing. We could do something similar in this case. Member Steven Schwichow inquired about what the panelists propose with regard to multi-stall gender neutral bathrooms. Mr. Vade stated that they propose forming a task force to look into a pilot project, various types of construction, and other feasibility issues. Member Kirsten Boyd inquired whether we might recommend that the Commission propose legislation to the Board of Supervisors concerning gender neutral bathrooms. She stated that her girlfriend, who is butch, has tons of bathroom problems. She stated that the HRC is cutting edge, and she does not think we should stop at single stall bathrooms. She suggests that we need as a committee to press for multi-stall gender neutral bathrooms. Ms. Boyd also asked what power the HRC has to implement the proposed changes. Commissioner Knutzen and Mr. Brinkin explained that the ordinances give the HRC power to come up with regulations to implement the gender identity law. With respect to implementing the change to single stall gender neutral bathrooms, Mr. Brinkin said that the HRC could probably make this change, but would first have to check with the City Attorney. Member Danny Kirchoff stated that as someone who's dealt with an incredible amount of bathroom discrimination, it's exciting to be having this discussion. He said that a lot of us are so scared that we don't even talk about it in a political way. We are talking about a cultural shift, which will take time and education and some discomfort. Wren Phoenix suggested that a fiscal study be done as part of the pilot program, so that when San Francisco is successful, we can demonstrate that it is not prohibitive from a retrofit standpoint. Yoseñio Lewis suggested that it might be good to do research on how bathrooms became integrated for black and white people so as not to reinvent the wheel. Finally, a transgender person spoke about recent experience being transgender in high school, saying that there was no bathroom to use, and that transgender high school students get beaten up all the time around bathroom use. Commissioner Knutzen added that this won't be our only discussion. This is a big issue. We will have more opportunity for input and testimony, and we'll need that. We're breaking a lot of new ground here.

6. Report from Senior Issues Public Hearing Task Force:

Larry Brinkin reported that the Senior Issues Public Hearing Task Force met on September 3, 2002 and discussed speakers for the Public Hearing. Mr. Brinkin distributed a tentative public hearing schedule that he and Jodie Marksamer compiled with names of confirmed and non-confirmed speakers. Mr. Brinkin reported that Bill Kirkpatrick, of New Leaf Senior Services, has been working with the task force to pare down the list of speakers. Mr. Brinkin asked Committee member to review the list of names on the schedule and offer any suggestions. Mr. Brinkin said that even those who have not been formally invited to speak could come to the hearing and testify during public comment, which will be interspersed throughout the hearing. Mr. Brinkin added that LGBT consumers of senior services are especially encouraged to attend and speak during the public comment. Written testimony can be submitted any time up until two weeks after the hearing. Written testimony is highly encouraged because speakers have only 2-3 minutes to speak whereas written testimony can be used for longer testimonials or if one cannot make it to the hearing or doesn't want to speak. Mr. Brinkin hopes that all the invited speakers provide recommendations for the report.

Commissioner Knutzen pointed out that flyers were included in all the Committee members' packets for distribution. Mr. Brinkin strongly suggested that Committee members attend the hearing, and volunteer to listen to the testimony and write down recommendations.
7. Report from Gender Identity Guidelines Revisions Task Force:

Kirsten Boyd reported Jodie Marksamer had done a lot of work on the guidelines and brought revisions to their last meeting. The task force reviewed the guidelines section by section, making the format user-friendly, and Mr. Marksamer included more modern and useful language. Mr. Brinkin said that the definition of "gender identity" is currently in the law and that if we wanted it to change, it would require legislation by the Board of Supervisors. He added that issues of intersex and gender neutral bathrooms are part of the revision as well.

8. Commissioners' Report:

None given.

9. Staff Report:

Mr. Brinkin reported that Hadas Rivera-Weiss participated in the immigrant rights summit at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium last week where she talked about the public hearing the Commission had with the Board of Supervisors on anti-Arab backlash. She is also working on producing a report on that public hearing. Mr. Brinkin said that he, along with Marcus Arana and Ellise Nicholson, will be attending "Creating Change," an annual conference sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force that will be held in Portland, OR, from November 6-10, 2002. He will be part of an Economic Empowerment panel discussing the work of the Committee and the Center. He added that Mr. Arana will be on several transgender panels. He added that Mr. Arana was part of a panel on intersex issues at "Genderblast," where he utilized information derived from last month's Committee meeting panel on intersex issues, and hinted at some of the work the Commission will do in the future regarding infant surgeries. Mr. Brinkin reported that Governor Davis signed into law a paid family leave policy for California, the first in the nation, where employees in the state will contribute approximately $30.00 a year. It is the first state law in which domestic partners were included from the start. The law will go into effect July 1, 2004 when the fund is built up.

Mr. Brinkin reported that following a Commission public hearing on June 10, 2002 addressing the concerns of the City's African-American community, Commissioners and management staff were divided into workgroups to respond to those concerns. Mr. Brinkin, Cynthia Goldstein and Commissioners Knutzen and Rollins worked on the issue of African-American involvement in City government. The Commission is likely going to concentrate on the issue of environmental racism. Mr. Brinkin also stated that staff will report at next Commission meeting on the Racial Privacy Initiative and the impacts it will have on City government. Mr. Brinkin said that Ellise Nicholson drafted the written report that will be presented to the Commission and, after being approved, will be available on-line.

Mr. Brinkin reported that Virginia Harmon, the Commission Director, is pregnant and is expecting her baby in January 2003.

Mr. Brinkin reported that the people putting on Gendertalk 2 recommend that it not happen this year and instead be discussed at next year's Committee retreat. The Committee agreed.

Mr. Brinkin reported that he sent a letter to Gary Virginia stating that he's no longer on the Advisory Committee because of three missed meetings. He added that Mr. Virginia is encouraged to continue coming to meetings and to reapply for membership in January, if his schedule permits.

10. Old/New Business:


11. Announcements:

Ms. Buchmann distributed a flyer from Pride At Work presenting a workshop, "Storming The Barricades," which will be held at the LGBT Community Center. Mr. Campbell announced that he and Mr. Viterbo were part of "Giving Back III," a benefit for the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus and the AIDS Emergency Fund that featured Julie Newmar. Mr. Campbell asked about any update on the Mattier & Ross article regarding transgender health care. Mr. Brinkin reported that he spoke to Dick Rogers of The San Francisco Chronicle, who said that he would be willing to organize a meeting with the editor or the assistant editor to talk about the issues raised. Mr. Brinkin will discuss with the Commissioners about organizing the meeting.
12. Adjournment:

The meeting was adjourned at 7:35