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Cory Silverberg

Pee in Peace: Using Technology to Counter Bathroom Violence

By January 17, 2012

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I'm already getting excited about this year's Sex::Tech conference. For the past five years ISIS has organized a one of a kind international conference devoted to the newest developments in sexual health and technology. One thing I'm often struck by is how the most successful projects are often the simplest. Recently I heard about a new app which I think is a good example of this. I wanted to know more so I virtually sat down with Maureen Kelly, who is part of the team behind the new app and the Vice President for Programming and Communications at Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes, which commissioned the app.

When I first saw the name of your app, Pee in Peace, I thought maybe it was some kind of white noise generator, designed for people with shy bladders.  But that's not it at all. Can you explain what the app does?

I love your idea, maybe the next version could have a soundtrack as well!  The app is a very simple GPS-enabled service to help someone in Ithaca, New York quickly and easily find a single stall or gender neutral restroom.  Once a restroom is selected from the vetted list, the app will provide either walking or driving directions for quick access.  The app provides detailed location info (e.g., 'go to the right of the bakery counter at the back of the hallway'), information about wheelchair accessibility, hours the restroom is open and if the restroom is publish or for customers of a business.

Aren't the locks on bathroom stalls enough to let us all pee in peace?   Why is this needed?

We wish a lock was enough!  Sadly, the day to day reality for many people who do not readily fit into expected and conventional norms of gender presentation, a public bathroom can be a hostile and violent place.  We drew research and inspiration from the amazing work of the Transgender Law Center, if you're someone who likes seeing the data in detail, please check out their PDF. You can also read more about bathroom woes from a former peer educator, here.

As the partner of a trans person for almost 20 years, I have watched the discomfort and concern take hold and impact the simple act of being able to safely find and use a public restroom while out at a movie or the grocery store.  Many people don't bat and eye but when someone does take notice it can be jarring and quite frightening; I realize that the app will not help change those attitudes and beliefs that inspire bigotry and cruelty toward people who may not readily fit into expected and conventional norms of gender presentation...but hopefully it can help to just find a decent place to pee in a  sometimes cruel and narrow-minded world.  You have to start somewhere.


How did you develop the list of bathrooms?

With grant funds we were able to hire two college students from Ithaca College to walk and drive around town and create a very long list of restrooms.  We then worked together with Planned Parenthood staff, local LGBT leaders, and community volunteers to come up with questions and criteria to use to rate each restroom and decide if they were worthy of inclusion on our list.

Are you able to see how many people are using the app?  What sort of feedback have you been getting?

We just launched the app this week so we'll have to see!  And the feedback so far - as we were developing the concept and now that it has launched - has been positive and grateful.  We've been most touched by the immediate appreciation from people who totally get it and tell us how personally useful it is to have the info at the touch of a screen.

It's funny how things that we touch can touch us back. Are there plans to expand the app outside of Ithaca and outside of those who have iPhones?

Yes, we do indeed know that not everyone has an iPhone...we are seeking funding for a Droid platform and will continue to work on increasing access to info to let everyone pee in peace. We have big dreams about new locations and we welcome inquires about becoming a Pee in Peace Partner in other regions!

Find Out More - Pee in Peace

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January 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm
(1) Really? says:

I am amazed, I understand that there are people who have such concerns and I am concerned for them, however I feel that grant monies could be better spent elsewhere. For instance, how to feed the children in this country that are starving!

In this economy, we are focusing on this? Really? I mean no harm, or violence, just Really?

January 18, 2012 at 5:37 pm
(2) Amber says:

As a sibling of one such person I am very excited about this being expanded outside of N.Y. I’ve personally seen what happens to people when it does get confrontational and it isn’t fair. No one asked to be born differently they just were. As for the person asking about the money going elsewhere I truly wish that we didn’t have to send money to funding for such things but in today’s society we need this. Thank you for an interesting new app and keep it coming.

January 18, 2012 at 9:22 pm
(3) Amanda says:

As someone who is trans. As i am no I didnt ask to be this way. I am also a truck driver. So this would be a good app and hopefully yall get it setup so i can use it with my cricket phone. this is one i would forsure use expecily in Californa.

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