Ladies, gents... and transvestites: Brazilian city installs third type of loo

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The Independent US

For most, it's a choice of the men's room or the women's, but a city on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro is trying to give an option to those who don't fit into either category.

A bill passed this week by the Nova Iguacu city council would require nightclubs, shopping malls, movie theatres and large restaurants to provide a third type of lavatory for transvestites. Mayor Lindberg Farias will decide whether to make it law.

"A lot of lawmakers didn't want to deal with this issue, but it's a serious problem in society," said Carlos Eduardo Moreira, a city councillor. "It's a way to put an end to prejudice."

Mr Moreira, a 32-year-old policeman on leave from the force, said he got the idea when dozens of transvestites showed up for a local samba show.

"It was a real problem. The women didn't feel comfortable having them in the ladies' room, and the men didn't want them in their bathroom either," said Mr Moreira, who is married and the father of two children.

He said the "alternative bathrooms" could also be used by men or women who didn't mind sharing space with transvestites.

Mr Moreira said there were nearly 28,000 transvestites in Nova Iguacu, a poor city of about 800,000. He said many transvestites were reluctant to go out because there were no lavatory facilities for them. He denied that the cost of building a third room would pose a big problem for restaurant or club owners.

The issue has divided gay groups; some feared it could segregate gays, while others said it recognised a problem within the gay community.