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Male, Female? Feline Or Poultry? New Law Creates A Quandary

Josh Flanders, second from right, is a co-owner of Buzz Bomb Brewing Company in Springfield. He has a bit of a problem with a gender-neutral restroom signage law.
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Josh Flanders, second from right, is a co-owner of Buzz Bomb Brewing Company in Springfield. He has a bit of a problem with a gender-neutral restroom signage law.

A law recently signed by Governor J.B Pritzker requires that all single-use public restroom signs make no reference to gender. But one brew pub owner has a problem with the signage he’ll have to replace in his establishment. 

Hear the story here.

At Buzz Bomb Brewing Company in Springfield, one set of restrooms has stick figure silhouette signage - - one with in a skirt, the other without.

As co-owner Josh Flanders explained, one of Buzz Bomb’s main floor restrooms displays a cat and on the one with the urinal, there’s a rooster. Though the signage serves as a kind of joke, both are intended to be used by anyone.

“I mean it’s kind of a minor pain to have to order a sign, but it’s no big deal. But the cat and rooster, we’re pretty fond of.”

Mike Ziri with Equality Illinois, one of the organizations that advocated for the bill, said the law updates the state plumbing code, which had stated that restrooms should be marked by gender.

“This bill, now law, is just great policy for transgender individuals, individuals who may need the assistance of a caregiver, parents with opposite sex children,'' he said, "It just provides security and comfort when they're using the restroom out in public, which we all have to do.”

Come January 1, Illinois will become one of four states requiring gender-neutral single-use public restrooms. California, Vermont and New Mexico already require single-occupancy public restrooms to be gender-neutral.

The new rule applies to all single-use public restrooms. Signage may simply say “restroom."

Copyright 2021 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS. To see more, visit NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is the NPR Illinois News Editor and a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.