Let’s talk about bathrooms. Not an issue for most people. It’s a passing thought. Usually the biggest concern for public bathrooms is cleanliness. But when you’re trans, that moves to the bottom of the list of things to worry about. Bathrooms are terrible. Some trans people plan trips around bathrooms, and limit fluid intake to avoid them. Asking either of my bosses for permission to use the woman’s room is too embarrassing to think about. I don’t even want to bring it up.The idea of having to defend complaints of me being in the “wrong” restroom is unbearable. Think about that. I have to ask permission to use the bathroom I feel comfortable in. That’s basically asking permission to be a woman. And what if the answer I get is no? How can I handle that?
Right now, Florida is trying to pass a bill to make people use the bathroom of their assigned gender at birth, including fines and possibly jail for people who don’t. The wording of this bill means that even if gender reassignment surgery was performed, whatever you had originally is what bathroom you would be made to use. Kentucky is trying to pass a similar bill directed at students.
Imagine you are forced to use the bathroom of the opposite gender. Forced to use the men’s bathroom, when you were born a woman. Or the woman’s bathroom when you were born a man. It would be embarrassing, awkward, and unsafe. So why is it okay to make trans people do so? Because people still think we’re not real. They may accept us. They may use our names and pronouns, but when it comes down to it, they still see us as what we were born as. There are next to no cases of trans people harassing woman in the bathroom (because let’s face it, this law is directed at trans women), but there are numerous cases of hate crimes against trans woman. (8 murders so far this year, actually.)
We don’t want to molest you or sneak a peak, as much as the supporters and lawmakers want you to believe. That’s just a cover for a bunch of bigots who still see us as men. All we want to do is pee in peace.
It’s hard enough to choose a bathroom at it is. The further into transition I get, the more uncomfortable I am in a men’s bathroom. And leaving the bathroom. My slim chance of passing disappears when I walk out of a men’s room. But I’m also not comfortable in the woman’s room yet. So which to use? Get stared at either way. Possibly get yelled at in one, or beat up or worse in the other. Some choice. A lot of trans people in my situation would rather just hold it to the point of pain than use a public restroom that’s unfamiliar territory.
Even Massachusetts, who has been one of the most progressive states in regards to trans issues, has been unsuccessful at pushing a bathroom anti-discrimination bill through. The current governor is another who doesn’t support it, with flimsy excuses to cover transphobia – because let’s face it, if you’re uncomfortable with a trans person in the bathroom with you, who visibly shows signs of femininity, you’re transphobic.
Some places have started using a separate bathroom for non-binary and trans people, but that’s not a solution, either. That’s segregation. Other places have eliminated gendered bathrooms altogether, which is a very valid solution. And some places decide to keep their gendered bathrooms, but make it clear that trans people are welcome to use the one they choose. A viral message circling the internet that was posted on the bathrooms at the University of Bristol says, “if you’re in a public bathroom and you think a stranger’s gender does not match the sign on the door, follow these steps:
Don’t worry about it, they know better than you.”
Now that is bathroom politics done right.
No matter which bathroom they make me use, they can’t stop me from fighting like a grrrl.