State and local laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression should protect transgender people’s right to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. We believe that laws that ban sex discrimination should also be interpreted by the courts to protect transgender people. While federal law in this area is uncertain, most courts to address this question have found in favor of transgender people being able to access facilities most consistent with their gender identity.
In some places, state and local nondiscrimination laws are much clearer about transgender people’s right to use gender identity-appropriate public restrooms. Many businesses, universities, and other public places are converting their restrooms to all-gender spaces.
How the law varies in different states and cities
Some places — for example, states like Colorado, Iowa, Oregon, and Washington, and cities like San Francisco and New York City — specifically grant transgender people the right to use gender identity-appropriate restrooms in public spaces.
Other places, like Chicago, continue to allow businesses to decide whether transgender patron may access men’s or women’s restrooms based on the gender on their ID, which may or may not reflect accurately the person’s gender identity.
Some cities — like Austin, Texas, New York City, Philadelphia, and West Hollywood — require that single-stall public restrooms be labeled as all-gender.
If you believe your rights are violated
What you can do depends largely on where the discrimination took place, whether any state or local laws there might apply to your situation, and where things are with federal lawsuits currently in play. We encourage you to contact your local ACLU affiliate or the national ACLU LGBT & HIV Project for help weighing your options.
If you’ve been discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the ACLU may be able to help. Contact us by filling out an intake form.