A Florida city is converting 164 of its bathrooms into all-gender in a show of support to the LGBTQ+ community and trans youth.
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch signed an executive policy Sept. 1 to convert all of its public single-occupancy, family restrooms or changing facilities in the city to “all-gender” restrooms. Signs indicating a specific gender will be replaced with ones that designate the bathrooms as all-gender restrooms by next March. Bathrooms with multiple stalls will remain separated into men’s and women’s.
“We’re eliminating gender identity restrictions and making them all gender so trans individuals feel safe using individual facilities,” the city’s LGBTQ+ Liaison Jim Nixon told the Tampa Bay Times.
The town’s City Hall converted its single-use bathrooms to all-gender in 2017, according to Nixon, and an audit of city-owned bathrooms in parks and recreation facilities found the signage was inconsistent.
“We just felt like this was a good opportunity to make that change since we had made it here in City Hall,” Nixon said. “It was just an opportunity that we had seen this becoming a bigger issue.”
The changes come after a new state law that went into effect over the summer that requires people to use the public bathroom that coincides with their biological sex.
“It [lets our] transgender siblings … know there are facilities available that they’re safer to use,” Nixon said. “With everything that’s happening and the attacks on the LGBTQ+ community … from the state, we’re always looking at opportunities to make St. Pete a safe city for all of our residents.”
St. Petersburg earned a perfect score for the 10th consecutive year on the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Municipal Equality Index, which ranks cities on their LGBTQ+ support. The 2023 index results released Friday found a record number of cities — more than a quarter of the 506 surveyed — earned a perfect score.
“For 10 years in a row, we have earned a perfect score on the HRC’s Municipal Equality Index, but we have not rested on our past scores,” Nixon said in a press release. “Mayor Welch continues to pass robust nondiscrimination policies and support services for the LGBTQ+ community and trans youth.”
Nixon said the HRC index inspired the bathroom signage overhaul in St. Petersburg since it includes whether a city has single-occupancy all-gender facilities in its rankings.
City-owned facilities, including theaters and sporting venues, have a six-month grace period to convert their single-use bathrooms to meet the new rule.
St. Petersburg officials did not immediately response to a request for comment.