Yelp, the online application which connects customers to businesses and allows them to “rate” establishments, announced a new feature — reporting on access to gender-neutral bathrooms. While this service need not be political, Yelp’s head of diversity and inclusion explicitly said that it is.
“People in this company were so incensed by what’s going on in our country, and to potential employees and customers, they wanted to do something to support” transgender people, Rachel Williams, the head of diversity and inclusion, told TechCrunch.
In late February, President Donald Trump’s administration rescinded guidance that schools had to allow transgender students to use the restrooms and changing rooms of the oppose sex. The guidance, released by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education under President Obama, interpreted discrimination on the basis of sex to include gender identity, an exceedingly tenuous argument.
In response to this reversal, the Supreme Court returned the case Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board — which dealt with a school refusing to allow a transgender boy to use the boy’s restroom — back to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Yelp, along with 52 other tech companies, joined an amicus brief in support of Grimm, the boy who sued, alleging discrimination on the basis of sex.
Williams, Yelp’s diversity head, told TechCrunch that the company also beat her to the punch when it came to signing the amicus brief. “When we heard about [the amicus brief] we were like, ‘we’re doing this, right? Right?!?'” she said. By the time Williams got in touch with Yelp’s legal team, they reported they were already on it.
Similarly, the company jumped on board the gender-neutral restrooms initiative quickly and before her encouragement. “The product team got it done within a couple of days,” Williams said. “They dropped everything to add this feature. I’m overjoyed and proud.”
Within a few weeks, people will be able to see on Yelp if restaurants and other businesses have gender-neutral bathrooms. These single-stall bathrooms which lock are a good compromise on the heated bathroom issue. They allow transgender people to act in accordance with their gender identity without opening the door to perverts pretending to be transgender to spy on women in the restroom, as has happened in Target stores across the country.
In order to make this work, Yelp will start asking people who check into a business or who actively review it whether or not that establishment offers gender-neutral restrooms. Business owners will also be able to edit their profiles to indicate the presence of these facilities.
There is already an open-source database which “seeks to provide safe restroom access for transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals,” REFUGE Restrooms. Yelp would merely include this kind of feature on its more mainstream software.
According to Williams, Yelp’s product team spearheaded the initiative, and “opted to drop revenue-generating product features” to do so. Lamentably, she insisted on tying in this feature to the political debate and to opposition to President Trump.
“The culture is changing,” Yelp’s diversity head declared. “That is what the big indicator is. Rightly or wrongly, this new administration has galvanized the folks. People are excited and fired up.”
Ironically, during the primary, Donald Trump actually favored transgender bathroom access, criticizing the state of North Carolina for passing a bill clarifying that biological males should use the men’s restroom and biological females should use the women’s restroom.
Furthermore, Yelp need not conflate the gender-neutral restroom search tool with support for Gavin Grimm and the extending of transgender ideology to public schools. The Trump administration’s reversal of Obama’s policy merely declared transgender bathrooms to be a state issue.
Also ironically, transgender people are not the real threat. Citizens are concerned that voyeurs will use a public transgender bathroom policy to invade people’s privacy — under the cover of transgenderism. By making this a public issue, companies like Target have inadvertently allowed predators to take advantage. Gender-neutral restrooms remove this potential threat, and Yelp deserves praise for supporting them, regardless of the Gavin Grimm case.