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City Hall to set up its first gender-neutral bathroom

City Hall will soon have its first official gender-neutral bathroom.

Mayor Byron W. Brown said Tuesday – during an event to announce the beginning of Buffalo & Western New York Pride Week – that Buffalo has received several requests from the community for a gender-neutral bathroom in City Hall, and the city is responding by creating one.

“The city of Buffalo doesn’t stand for discrimination of any kind,” the mayor said.

Brown said the city didn’t hesitate when the request came in.

“It’s easily doable,” he said.

Specifications were drawn up, and put out for bid.

The city is now in the process of selecting a contractor.

There’s no date yet when the gender-neutral bathroom will be available.

Brown said Buffalo is among the first cities in New York to offer a gender-neutral bathroom.

“It appears New York City is the only major city in New York State that has implemented a gender-neutral bathroom policy in government buildings,” said Crystal J. Rodriguez, Brown’s chief diversity officer.

Among those listening to Brown’s announcement Tuesday was Camille Hopkins, a former Buffalo City human resources employee who attended the Pride Week ceremony in Niagara Square.

“It’s a sign of progress,” Hopkins said after hearing there would be a gender-neutral bathroom in City Hall.

Back in 2002, Hopkins –then Gregory Hopkins –became the first City Hall employee to openly transition from male to female.

For awhile, as she transitioned, Hopkins said, the only City Hall bathroom available to her was a toilet in a 17th-floor janitor’s closet.

Hopkins. 66, said that as a transgender woman, her preference has been to use the women’s bathroom. Another individual at the event who is transitioning from male to female, Earl Fish, 62, of Buffalo, also said the preference is to use a bathroom of the gender with which you associate.

But others prefer the gender-neutral bathroom option, which is good to have, Hopkins said.

“The whole bathroom issue is blown out of proportion,” she said.

The theme of this year’s Pride Week events celebrating the region’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community is “R/Evolution.”

Other events this week include the Big Gay Sing at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Evergreen Commons, 67 Prospect Ave. and the Gay 5K on Thursday. On Sunday, the Pride Parade starts at noon at Elmwood and Forest avenues and the Pride Festival kicks off at 1 p.m. at Canalside.

For a full listing of events, visit BuffaloPrideFestival.com.

e-mail: sschulman@buffnews.com