The App the Transgender Community Needs

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

This app is long past due: Refuge Restrooms, which helps identify the nearest safe public restroom for transgender, intersex, and gender-nonconforming individuals. The ability to easily find a bathroom is something most people take for granted, The Advocate points out. But trans people can face harassment, violence, and in some cases criminal charges for trying to use a public restroom.

So San Francisco-area software developer Teagan Widmer created the Refuge Restrooms app to help trans individuals like herself find local restrooms where they're least likely to be harassed or assaulted. Widmer told The Advocate the app stems in part from her experiences. "When I was early in my transition ... I no longer felt comfortable in the men's restroom, but I didn't feel comfortable in the women's bathroom either," she said.

"I felt people's eyes on me — I felt judgement. I felt like I didn't 'pass enough.' The concept of passing is super problematic in and of itself, but it's especially hard when it comes to bathroom usage. Many trans folk are left feeling really unsafe. If I go into the women's room, I might get yelled at. If I go into the men's room, I might get assaulted.

Widmer's free app has already indexed over 4,000 "refuge restrooms" around the world (mostly based on data from now-defunct website Safe2Pee). It invites users to submit more locations as well as make comments about those listed. There's no native mobile app yet, but you can download it at Searches can also be filtered to find unisex restrooms specifically or accessible restrooms for people with disabilities.