Sexuality Research and Social Policy

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 70–83 | Cite as

Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Laws in Public Accommodations: a Review of Evidence Regarding Safety and Privacy in Public Restrooms, Locker Rooms, and Changing Rooms

  • Amira HasenbushEmail author
  • Andrew R. Flores
  • Jody L. Herman


Legislation, regulations, litigation, and ballot propositions affecting public restroom access for transgender people increased drastically in the last three years. Opponents of gender identity inclusive public accommodations nondiscrimination laws often cite fear of safety and privacy violations in public restrooms if such laws are passed, while proponents argue that such laws are needed to protect transgender people and concerns regarding safety and privacy violations are unfounded. No empirical evidence has been gathered to test such laws’ effects. This study presents findings from matched pairs analyses of localities in Massachusetts with and without gender identity inclusive public accommodation nondiscrimination ordinances. Data come from public record requests of criminal incident reports related to assault, sex crimes, and voyeurism in public restrooms, locker rooms, and dressing rooms to measure safety and privacy violations in these spaces. This study finds that the passage of such laws is not related to the number or frequency of criminal incidents in these spaces. Additionally, the study finds that reports of privacy and safety violations in public restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms are exceedingly rare. This study provides evidence that fears of increased safety and privacy violations as a result of nondiscrimination laws are not empirically grounded.


Transgender Gender identity Discrimination Safety Restroom Public accommodations Law 



The authors would like to thank Kerith Conron and Brad Sears for their extensive feedback on analytical approaches and presentation of findings. The authors would also like to thank the records keepers at the police departments throughout Massachusetts who assisted in responding to the public records requests that were a necessary part of the data collection for this project. The authors would also like to thank Chrissy Reinard and Joseph Rocha, who provided assistance in executing one round of public records requests. Thanks also go to Taylor Brown, who provided research assistance on crime rates throughout New England, and Fernanda Miramontes, who copy edited this paper. Finally, thank you to the editor and anonymous reviewers for their feedback and publication assistance.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors. An IRB exemption was obtained by the authors for use of de-identified criminal record data (IRB#15-001060).

Conflict of Interest

Amira Hasenbush declares that she has no conflict of interest. Andrew Flores declares that he has no conflict of interest. Jody Herman declares that she has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UCLA School of LawThe Williams InstituteLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Public Policy & Political ScienceMills CollegeOaklandUSA

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