Ingham commissioners support gender-neutral county bathrooms

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Nicole Hope, leader of the Transgender Michigan Lansing Chapter, went to the meeting to support the resolution.

“Very simply put — bathrooms are an aspect of living in public society,” said Nicole Hope.

Hope leads the Transgender Michigan’s Lansing chapter. She attended the Ingham County services meeting Feb. 19 to support a motion to have gender-neutral signage in county buildings.

Commissioners agreed unanimously to put gender neutral signs on every single-stall bathroom in county buildings. According to Rick Terrill, facilities director for Ingham County, this would be 60-69 signs.

Commissioner Mark Grebner said he supported the action, but wanted to know the cost.

“I’m interested in actual practical problems with that,” he said. “Like how does it affect the jail?”

Terrill agreed. He said he needed help in knowing what restrooms to transition first, or if a family bathroom was considered gender-neutral.

Grebner said the county is addressing the issue because it a national movement and not because of a local public outcry.

Commissioner Ryan Sebolt said he was offended that Grebner didn’t believe it was a real issue. Sebolt said the county should post the signs because people might not be raising the issue but don’t feel comfortable coming forward.

Commissioner Emily Stivers said she, too, was taken back by Grebner’s comments and called for actions going further than gender-neutral bathrooms.

Stivers discussed the issues in parks and how there should be laminated signage to educate the public and to say, “mind your own business.” She also suggested that park staff be trained on how to handle conflicts.

Although some commissioners agreed with Stivers, by the end of the meeting the committee agreed only on the gender-neutral signage for single-stalls. All gender-segregated bathrooms with multiple stalls would stay the same, but it was made clear that anyone who identified with that gender was welcome.

Sebolt said it was about “treating people with basic dignity and respect.”

Commissioner Carol Koenig concluded the discussion and said it was something the county should continue to work on.

“We might be a good example for other counties to follow,” she said.

Hope said that there aren’t single stall bathrooms everywhere though, and that this was just a start.

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