As the discussion of gender-identity and bathroom laws sweep the nation, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss what the legal guidelines in New England are. I mean, when you gotta go, you gotta go, but when you’re cross-dressing it can be a little confusing as to which restroom to use.
First off, if you’re cross-dressing from male-to-female, you should consider using the women’s restroom. If you’re at a TLGB bar or event, you’re free to use any bathroom you identify or express yourself as. Obviously, not all private businesses are open to this idea, so exercise your judgment. There are no specific bathroom bans in New England as of yet, however, the ability to use public accommodations vary by region.
Connecticut and Rhode Island added gender identity and expression to its anti-discrimination laws in housing, employment, public accommodations, and public schools. There have been a few attempts to exclude public restrooms from this list, but they have failed. Connecticut defines gender as something you are either assigned at birth or you physiology, and they may require a person provides evidence such as medical history, birth certificate, etc. Rhode Island, on the other hand, defines gender-identity and expression as something that can be perceived by their gender related appearance or self-image.
Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont provide specific protections for transgender individuals. These laws also extend to a person’s gender expression when using public accommodations.
As for New Hampshire, there are no state laws prohibiting the discrimination of transgender individuals.
Now it’s time to talk about being able to actually to use a restroom. Simply because public accommodations may extend to someone’s gender expression, that doesn’t necessarily mean that private accommodations are required to offer these same protections. Some cities across New England, may have ordinances protecting a person’s gender-identity or expression in private accommodations. This is not the case for all cities. The safest bet would be to use restrooms at companies that are either trans friendly, or have specific policies allowing a person to use a restroom according to their gender identity. Companies such as Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, Target, Ikea, the Home Depot, JCPenney, Sears, Nordstrom, Disney, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Macy's, CVS, and Walgreens.