Is It Illegal for a Man to Use the Ladies’ Room?

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In Charlotte, there is a controversy over whether a transgendered person should use the bathroom assigned to his or her biological sex or to the sex with which he or she identifies. The Charlotte Observer has the story here. This post doesn’t address that issue directly, but instead concerns a related question that the story prompted me to ponder: is it illegal for a man to use the ladies’ room?

There doesn’t seem to be much law directly addressing this topic, or the similar if not identical issue of whether it is illegal for a woman to use the men’s room. A few states have considered enacting specific crimes targeting restroom usage by the opposite sex, as noted by the Huffington Post here and here. But it doesn’t sound as though any of them have passed, leaving me to consider more generally-applicable crimes.

Here are the main possibilities:

Trespass. There’s a strong argument that a man entering a ladies’ room is a person who has, without authorization, entered a building of another and so is guilty of first-degree trespass. G.S. 14-159.12. One might argue that a restroom is not a building but a room within a building. However, it may qualify as a building under G.S. 14-159.11, which defines the term as “any structure or part of a structure . . . enclosed so as to permit reasonable entry only through a door.” Supporting that interpretation is Com. v. White, 538 A.2d 887 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1988), where the court affirmed a conviction for criminal trespass after the male defendant entered the women’s restroom of an athletic club. The court ruled that the restroom was a “separately secured or occupied portion” of the building that was reserved for women’s use. Update: See also In re S.M.S., 196 N.C. App. 170 (2009) (affirming an adjudication of second-degree trespass after a boy entered a girls’ locker room, and stating that “[t]he sign marked ‘Girl’s Locker Room’ was reasonably likely to give respondent notice that he was not authorized to go into the girls’ locker room”).

Breaking or entering. There’s also a reasonable argument that a man entering a ladies’ room has wrongfully entered a building and so is guilty of misdemeanor breaking or entering under G.S. 14-54. Whether the bathroom is a building itself or is instead a part of a building may be irrelevant under State v. Perkins, 181 N.C. App. 209 (2007) (affirming a conviction of breaking or entering after a defendant entered the public reception area of a law firm, then entered “nonpublic space reserved for firm employees”; the entry into the nonpublic space rendered his entry into the building as a whole unlawful).

Disorderly conduct. In some states, incidents of this kind may be charged as disorderly conduct. See Com. v. Young, 535 A.2d 1141 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1987) (affirming a conviction for disorderly conduct after a male defendant entered a women’s restroom and opened a toilet stall being used by a female). But North Carolina’s disorderly conduct statute, G.S. 14-288.4, is limited to specific types of disruptive behavior, and I don’t see anything in the statute that would cover inappropriate bathroom usage.

Indecent exposure. Although indecent exposure might be applicable in some circumstances, most instances of a person of one sex using a restroom assigned to the other sex probably do not involve the showing of private parts required by the indecent exposure statute, G.S. 14-190.9.

Peeping. Although peeping might be applicable in some circumstances, most instances of a person of one sex using a restroom assigned to the other sex probably do not involve sufficient secrecy on the part of the person to implicate the peeping statute, G.S. 14-202.

Common sense. All of the analysis above should be considered alongside a bit of common sense. If a janitor of one sex cleans an empty restroom assigned to the opposite sex, or if a child of one sex accompanies a parent of another sex into a restroom assigned to the parent’s sex, neither the janitor nor the child should be hauled into court. If one bathroom at a gas station is out of order and patrons of both sexes take turns using the remaining bathroom, I can’t imagine a criminal charge resulting. But if a man waltzes into a ladies’ room, for no good reason, my guess is that a charge of trespass, or perhaps breaking or entering, could stick.

24 comments on “Is It Illegal for a Man to Use the Ladies’ Room?

  1. Raleigh City Code has a rule against it:
    Sec. 13-2015. – TOILET FACILITIES; USE BY SEX FOR WHICH NOT INTENDED.
    On public or on private property used by the public or patrons of a business establishment where separate toilet facilities are provided for the use of different sexes and such facilities are conspicuously labeled to give notice of the sex for which the facility is set apart, it shall be unlawful for a member of one sex to enter or use a facility provided for members of the opposite sex. Provided this section shall not be construed to prevent the inspection of toilet facilities by the owner or person in charge thereof or the designated agent of either, nor to prevent the performance of janitorial services therein by the person or persons designated to perform such services when members of the opposite sex are not present.

  2. What difference does it make really? Both genders use resrooms in similar way or for same purpuse, besides female restrooms have stalls, so what’s the difference if it is a man or a woman using it alongside? Sex only matters in reproduction, coupling, marriage etc. but surely not when it comes to relieving onself, I gather.

    • When my daughter was young I would have been offended and alarmed had some guy used the ladies room . Women see men on a primal level as predators , if usually benign ones . Anything that causes discomfort and alarm is not appropriate for settings where women feel especially vulnerable , such as in states of undress or when performing essentially private functions . I was in a club bathroom once and a women burst in and apologized and said she just couldn’t wait and dashed for a stall . It was mildly amusing but not threatening . For a woman the experience might be quite different . Stick to your own facilities .

    • sorry Morena, you like others use the term gender. A bathroom has nothing to do with gender as gender is a feeling. the bathroom is either male or female. Look up the definition and you will know which is which. IF we start allowing everyone the use a bathroom because of how they “feel”……..what’s next? Can I go into a police station with a gun or go somewhere with a gun and say “I feel like I want to be a police officer”???? No. Some of you will say that’s different; but its not. We simply cannot use gender, which again is a feeling of what sex you want to be; as and excuse. The bathrooms are for male or female; period.

      • I think we should have all sex bathrooms it would completely get rid of this issue.

  3. Men dressed as women, girls, I see it all the time in Cary and Morrisville (and I don’t really like it); please use the Men’s room wherein there is less wait time.

  4. […] controversy, Jeff considered the criminal implications of restroom usage by the opposite sex in this post from last […]

  5. I have been thinking about the issue of transgenders in ladies’ rooms, that has been in the news in North Carolina and elsewhere. I don’t care what someone is, but if they are biological men, they are probably twice my size, maybe five or six times my strength, and they have a penis. As a two-time rape survivor, I know that a penis can be used as a weapon. I have experienced it. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. I think a ladies’ room is a place where women and girls should be able to feel safe. If a person, whatever they perceive themselves to be, is a biological male with the size, strength and penis of a biological male, they should not be in a ladies’ room or ladiies’ locker room. Because, with all that, they are a potential threat to women. We only have their word for how they feel about themselves. We have no other security. Not good enough for me. If you think you are a woman, cut it off. Otherwise, it is a threat, and should not be in the ladies’ room. I apologize if this is too graphic for some, but I feel very strongly about it. And I think politicians should remember there are more rape survivors out there than there are transgenders. Just my thoughts.

    • Consider this: women’s bathrooms have no locks on their main doors, in general. There are, therefore, two options:
      1. Integrate bathrooms, i.e. let men and women use either room. In this situation, a potential rapist seeking a target would have to be quite careful about choosing either bathroom within which to commit a rape, since either one could contain ANOTHER STRONG MAN that could protect any women in the bathroom.
      2. Don’t integrate bathrooms, i.e. keep the men’s and women’s separate. Then a potential rapist is much more likely to find female victims in the women’s bathroom, which, as I mentioned, does not lock in the status quo. The potential rapist is ALSO much LESS likely to find another man in the women’s bathroom, since the norm is for other men to stay away. Therefore the potential rapist is more likely to be able to carry out his crime.

      Conclusion: the way things are gives women a false sense of security, but integration would make them actually safer. No rapist is going to respect the norm of not entering the women’s bathroom in the status quo.

      • This is such a bad response to the earlier comment. You have expressed no sympathy to a person who has to deal with the psychological damage of being raped. This gender expression is nothing more than gender pretending. I want to be someone else because that is how I feel.This issues go beyond the use of a bathroom stall, but women who don’t want to see men in their changing rooms. No law is denying a person from using a restroom or changing room, but we want to change the law because we have become so elevated in our thinking to reclassify people and deny what their DNA states and what we have learned in our Biology class. You want to talk about discrimination… Just look at the way African Americans are still being treated… granted it is not bad as it was in the 60’s but we are still feeling the effect of the damage it has caused. People will put a new agenda ahead of the issues we still face as if their cause needs more attention and that we are just complaining. I don’t care if the NAACP has joined the cause, because they are more about money and publicity instead of addressing our needs to better our communities.

    • Thank you for your candor and common sense.

    • Then really there are a lot of places you shouldn’t go. As a rape survivor, you have your own trials to deal with.

      Maybe you shouldn’t use a woman’s room either, if you are so threatened by other people.

      If you don’t see the penis, and you don’t get approached, there is no crime.

      A penis is not the only thing that can be used as a weapon. And having a penis doesn’t make you a criminal. Where should a man take his 5 year old daughter to use the restroom – a mens or womens room? No win, right?

  6. […] a crime for a transgendered person to use the “wrong” bathroom? Almost a year ago, I posted about whether it is a crime for a man to use the ladies’ room. I suggested that a man […]

  7. […] it a crime for a transgendered person to use the “wrong” bathroom? Almost a year ago, I posted about whether it is a crime for a man to use the ladies’ room. I suggested that a man using […]

  8. It seems obvious to me that prior to this controversy, transgender people were already regularly using the bathroom that was consistent with their gender identify and dress. The rest of us didn’t notice it because we weren’t looking for a man dressed as a women to use the women’s bathroom. So it appears none of these new rulings and statues will result in any change in the behavior of transgender people but may embolden some men to use the new laws as cover to invade women’s bathrooms.

    • The only men who go into womens bathrooms with criminal intent hide that they are men.

      If they hide it as appearing to be women, no one would know. If, as a child molester did in a mall near me, they hide their face and wear neutral clothing, no one would know – until they molested the child, which this guy did.

      These kinds of laws will make it illegal for a woman to take her 15 year old developmentally disabled son into either restroom. For a man to take his 5 year old daughter into either restroom.

  9. what about a male care taker taking in a disabled female into ladies room which my eses bf does all the time n havent heard any complaints

  10. I think there should be parent restrooms, where both the husband and wife goes… That way he can protect her and the children if they have any…..

  11. Hello my wife works at Walmart here in n.c. and even though HB2 is still in affect there is a transgender man using the woman’s bathroom with her and the other female employees which do not like it. What can I do, who do I contact ? Because management has had many complaints from both employees and customers and still nothing has changed… Thanks and please help, the law is being broken…

    • You realize a transgender man under HB2 would be required to use the women’s room?

      Also HB2 is no longer in effect due to court rulings, and only applied to public/government buildings in the first place. Walmart is a private business, which means even under HB2 they were free to make their own rules.

  12. Ladies’ restrooms have had various distinctive laws gone around them to give ladies and transgendered individuals approach rights and equivalent offices. Some of these laws vary per state, and some discussion exists about some of these laws and the ways they can be mishandled.

  13. It’s totally depends upon the conditions, you could be accounted for obscene exposure, voyeurism, or some other related misdeed – in case you’re not sufficiently brilliant to just use the ladies’ when it’s empty, for instance…

  14. As a man why you use women bathroom? Legal or illegal it doesn’t matter. It’s a commonsense. I wouldn’t enter women room without their permission.

  15. And then really there are many places an individual shouldn’t move. As a rape survivor, you will have your own studies to deal with. You shouldn’t utilize a woman’s area either, should you be so in danger by other folks.

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