Can the Seattle Public Library exclude a transgender man from a family bathroom because he doesn’t have a child with him? He filed a civil-rights complaint Monday.
A transgender man filed a complaint with the Seattle Office for Civil Rights on Monday afternoon against the Seattle Public Library for refusing to allow him to use the only private restroom in its downtown building, which is reserved for families.
After Ryan “Comet” Alley refused to stop filming his encounter this past Wednesday with a library security officer, he was asked to leave. When he didn’t, the officer banned him from the library for three days. Alley posted the video to Facebook, attracting thousands of views.
The ordinance requires any single-stall restroom in a public place to be accessible to all people, regardless of their gender identity.
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Even though the library has bathrooms labeled for men and women, library spokeswoman Andra Addison said they are all gender-neutral.
Alley, who wrote in his Facebook post that he is disabled, told library staff he didn’t feel safe using bathrooms with any gender label. He didn’t say why.
The restroom Alley wanted to use was off-limits, Addison said, because he didn’t have a child with him. That restroom is in the Central Library’s children’s section.
“It’s a safety issue,” she said. When the organization built a new downtown facility in 2004, concerns about bathroom use in a “busy urban library” caused architects to give the children’s wing its own restroom, according to Addison.
The library has periodically had to call police for various incidents in its restrooms, including drug overdoses, she said.
Still, she said: “We absolutely recognize that what happened was very hurtful to the patron and the transgender community.”
The library issued a statement saying that it was creating a new option for transgender patrons until a private, gender-neutral bathroom, already in the works, opens next year. Upon request, the library will open up staff restrooms, Addison elaborated.
Elliott Bronstein, spokesman for the city’s civil-rights office, said it was looking into the matter.
Until now, he added, the office has not considered how family bathrooms jibe with its nondiscrimination ordinance. “It’s an unusual situation,” he said.