Worrying about finding a safe place to use the bathroom should never be an issue in anyone’s life. But for far too many trans and gender non-conforming folks, bathrooms can be potential sites of fear, gender policing, and even violence. The right to bathroom access is important and taken for granted by most people – having to hold it can lead to dangerous health outcomes. Refuge Restrooms is a brand-new app designed to address these issues. Launched last week and already receiving lots of positive attention, the app catalogs restrooms that have been deemed safe to use, and folks can add to and update the list all the time.
Teagan Widmer created and launched the app, her first coding project, along with the help of additional volunteer programmers, and is continuing to update and improve it. I asked Widmer why she decided to create Refuge Restrooms:
When I was early in transition, I often found myself in a tight spot in terms of being able to use the restroom. During this time I largely relied on the Safe2Pee site (and the mobile application TranSquat). However, over the past year, I found that the Safe2Pee site had passed out of functionality. Since this was the primary and most comprehensive list of safe restrooms for trans people I was pretty devastated. It was incredibly useful. I saw a gap that needed to be filled. Safe2Pee allowed folks to scrape their old database export and I downloaded the CSV file and used that as the seed data for Refuge Restrooms.
Teagan hopes the app will become a comprehensive list of safe bathrooms all over the world – Refuge Restrooms already has international listings, but needs more.
The app is in the early stages, and there’s a lot Widmer wants to do to improve it. It has smartphone functionality, but she wants to create native applications for iOS and Android. She also wants to provide a text-based service for people who don’t have access to smartphones, especially so poor and homeless trans folks can use the service. After all, Refuge Restrooms is all about accessibility, so every aspect of this project is focused on making the service as easy for folks to use as possible.
Refuge Restrooms needs support to keep improving. The project is open source, so programmers can contribute here. It also needs funding – Widmer’s been managing the project on top of a full time job, and funding would allow her to give the app more attention. Money is also needed to cover technology costs so Refuge Restrooms can provide all the services they’re hoping for. Right now you can contribute to the project here. There’s plans for a crowdfunding campaign soon – look out for more news on that front.
In the meantime check out Refuge Restrooms, throw the project some support in whatever way you can, and tell your friends. This is an invaluable resource that needs to exist, and I’m so glad Teagan created it.
Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing and a proud friend of Teagan.