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Gender Regulation in the Built Environment: Gender-Segregated Public Facilities and the Movement for Change in Washington, DC, a Case Study Approach Open Access

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The designers of our built environment have created public facilities that are segregated by gender for their use. Common examples of such spaces are public restrooms, locker rooms, prisons, and shelters. While these gendered structures may exist to promote safety and modesty in our culture, these spaces present a problem for those who do not conform to traditional gender presentation. People who are trans or gender non-conforming may face denial of access, harassment, and violence in the gendered spaces in American society. These experiences can lead to problems in employment, education, health, and participation in public life. Some U.S. jurisdictions have enacted protective legislation and adopted regulations that seek to alleviate these problems. Washington, DC is one jurisdiction that has enacted specific protections for people who are trans and gender non-conforming in gender-segregated public facilities. Research for this study relies on a community-based participant action approach using mixed methods to provide problem definition and a study of the policy process. First, survey research and interviews are utilized to define the problems faced by trans and gender non-conforming people in gender-segregated spaced in Washington, DC. Second, an exploratory single case study of the policy process in Washington, DC provides a description of the main factors that led to the adoption of these protections, including discussion of how activists, advocacy groups, community members, organizations, and government officials worked to create and enact these protections. Finally, this study provides short-term and long-term public policy goals to ameliorate the problems trans and gender non-conforming people continue to face in gender-segregated public facilities and creates hypotheses for further study.

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