Signage Companies Expect Boom in Business of Gender-Neutral Bathroom Signs

PHOTO: A bathroom sign welcomes both genders at the Cacao Cinnamon coffee shop in Durham, North Carolina, May 3, 2016.Jonathan Drake/Reuters
A bathroom sign welcomes both genders at the Cacao Cinnamon coffee shop in Durham, North Carolina, May 3, 2016.

Gender neutral bathroom signs are slowly growing in popularity, and signage designers and architects expect a boom in the business of making them.

"I fully expect to see a significant number of orders for such signs in the future," said Ken Ethridge, business development manager with ASI Signage Innovations, which describes itself as the largest architectural signage company in the U.S.

In her 15 years with ASI Signage Innovations, Lauren Corrigan, operations manager in New York City, never sold any transgender bathroom signs. But this year, the firm's educational clients have spent about $1,000 for signs, Corrigan said. And recently, a large local college recently requested 152 of the signs that cost about $8,000, she said. Ethridge adds that the company typically works on larger projects that take a while for designers to assemble and put into production.

PHOTO: People place a sticker on the door at the ceremonial opening of a gender neutral bathroom at Nathan Hale high school, May 17, 2016, in Seattle.Elaine Thompson/AP Photo
People place a sticker on the door at the ceremonial opening of a gender neutral bathroom at Nathan Hale high school, May 17, 2016, in Seattle.

Restrooms can be marked as “unisex", as commonly done in the past with the title “Restroom” and pictures of both a man and a woman, Ethridge said. But with the Justice Department's feud with the state of North Carolina over a controversial law related to this issue, businesses say it’s an increasingly hot topic.

"It’s a free-for-all now -- until there’s some kind of consensus on how to express this contentious issue," he said.

He said anyone can go to Home Depot or Lowe's today and buy a mass-produced sign saying 'Restroom,' 'Men' or 'Women.'

"You won’t find one that says, 'Transgender Restroom' — yet," he said.

When the Hilton Chicago hosted Caitlyn Jenner for her first public keynote speech following her acceptance of the Arthur Ashe Courage award last July, the hotel posted a sign outside one bathroom that read, "All gender restroom."

Erik Kocher, the owner and principal at Hastings+Chivetta, a boutique architecture firm in St. Louis that focuses on colleges and universities, said higher education schools seem to be at the forefront of the bathroom sign issue.

PHOTO: Gender neutral signs are posted in the 21C Museum Hotel public restrooms on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.Sara D. Davis/Getty Images
Gender neutral signs are posted in the 21C Museum Hotel public restrooms on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.

"As a result we’ve been doing these kinds of facilities for quite some time," Kocher said.

His clients are still willing to spend the extra cost for additional single bathrooms instead of multiple stalls in one bathroom. One university in the Midwest recently asked him for 18 single-user restrooms for a three-story building.

Most U.S. states adopt building codes created by the International Codes Council, which will require individual-user public toilets to be gender neutral in 2018, Bloomberg reported, but it's not clear if the council will address the multiple-user question for its next rules for 2021.

PHOTO: A gender neutral sign is posted outside a bathrooms at Oval Park Grill on May 11, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.Sara D. Davis/Getty Images
A gender neutral sign is posted outside a bathrooms at Oval Park Grill on May 11, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.

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