Are Broadway Theaters Having a Bathroom Discrimination Problem?

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With Broadway audiences becoming more diverse, theaters have made adjustments to their facilities to make them more inclusive and accommodating, especially when it comes to restrooms. However, there have been recently reported issues where front of house staff have been discriminating various people, based on their gender identity or appearance, over which restrooms audience members were going to use.

Last night, a female audience member at Hadestown at the Walter Kerr Theatre posted on social media that during intermission, she had experienced bathroom discrimination based on her appearance.

Megan McCarthy commented that while in line for the “men’s room,” she and another female were instructed by a male usher that they needed to used the “women’s room.” Ms. McCarthy, who uses a cane, was also told by the same usher that she needed to use the accessible restroom, which was even further away.

Restroom signs at Jujamcyn Theaters

Restroom signs at Jujamcyn Theaters

It should be pointed out that the Walter Kerr Theatre, as do all Jujamcyn Theaters, have a gender-free policy when it comes to their restrooms. Which means, Ms. McCarthy should have been allowed to use whichever restroom she wanted. It should also be noted that while Ms. McCarthy could use the accessible restroom, she isn’t required to, which apparently this usher forgot or ignored.

I am told that after Ms. McCarthy posted her story on social media, Jordan Roth, President of Jujamcyn Theaters, reached out to her to apologize and promised that the issue would be addressed.

While Ms. McCarthy is thankful that this situation is being handled the right way, she is much more concerned for her trans friends who attend Broadway shows, because this sort of discrimination has been an issue with them as well.

This past April, during a performance of The Prom, a transgender audience member who identifies as male, was told by an usher at the Longacre Theatre, that he could not use the “men’s room.” I’ve been told by staff at the Longacre that while their restrooms are marked men and women, audiences are encouraged to use whichever restroom they choose based on their identity.

Before that, a transgender audience member at Waitress was told by staff that they could use the restroom that matched their gender identity because of the show’s “clientele.”

I’ve also been told of similar incidents at performances of Frozen, Hamilton and Be More Chill.

While I am happy to see that theaters are becoming for inclusive and accommodating with their facilities, it’s becoming clear that not every front-of-house staff member is being trained on these updates. I’ve been told my multiple ushers from various theaters that they haven’t received formal training on how to address these issues.

This is a terribly important issue to have a universally enforced policy on. Misgendering someone, or in Ms. McCarthy’s case - ignoring theater policy, is incredibly insensitive and for it to happen in such a public place can be beyond humiliating. It is great for theaters to have inclusive policies in place, but they must be followed uniformly and not left up to staff members who might not be as understanding or evolved in their thinking.