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When I graduated from college back in May, I had a sinus infection and a pretty bad one at that. Because my parents are incredibly loving people, they were willing to drive me all the way home from Massachusetts from Ohio as they had done every year, now without me in the driving rotation. That's about a 12 to 14 hour drive. Downing fluids until I could get home to my doctor, it was an incredibly long day of driving. The true eternities were the much needed pit-stops, of which there were about six.

I understand that a lot of people dislike public restrooms. Maybe it's sanitation reasons, maybe it's a shy bladder problem. For me, it's the fear of assault, outing, and the ridicule of my identity. Possibly rape as well. Y'know, the threats of basic life.

Each time, I would follow my father into the men's room, my pace matching his, my eyes on the floor, never looking to the urinals on the right. He would take a stall on the left after I did, making sure I didn't have to stand and wait. We would each do our business, wash our hands, and leave. Outside, we might wait a moment for my mother or find her already waiting for us, her anxious eyes always on me. Despite my years of experience as a martial arts instructor, she remains incredibly concerned for my personal safety. To be fair, I am too. It took a good five or ten minutes to for me to calm down each time, and I can only hope for her sake that I didn't let it show. Fortunately, exhausted from the congestion that had prevented me from breathing properly all week, I had rather the impassive face at the time.

When we finally returned to Massachusetts, it was with less happiness and more relief that I greeted my home. Not my home state, my actual home. Despite Massachusetts's liberal leanings and the passing of the Transgender Rights Bill to come in July, there was and remains a very distinct lack of public accommodations.

Opposition against making it legal for transgender individuals to use the restroom typically revolves around trans women, not trans men. This opposition is based on one of the two following lines of thought:

1. Trans women are men in disguise.
2. Men will disguise themselves as trans women to infiltrate women's restrooms.

To which I reply:

1. This is both false and offensive.
2. Denying a group a basic right because someone entirely unrelated may try to impersonate a member of that group is nonsensical in the extreme.

I realize that if you've read this far, I'm probably preaching to the choir, if not to a fellow preacher. However, one thing I've noticed here is that many of people who touch on transgender issues are relatives, friends or loves of a transgender individual, all people who support us through the indignities of daily life. It is nothing short of stupendous to see that support, but it is one thing to observe a person being denied safe or legal access to a public restroom and another thing entire to observe the effect it has on your own body.

Personal anecdote time:

In my junior year of college, I was finally educated properly about gender identity. As far as revelatory moments go, that one should have had parting clouds and shining beams of light, maybe some birds taking flight or Grandmother Willow telling me to listen to my heart. As I was studying abroad in England at the time, I had to settle for just the clouds. I was absolutely terrified, of course, because that is a lot of cis privilege to walk away from. Then I got a haircut and saw myself in the mirror for the first time in my entire life. I was nearly 21. This was the only change I made to my appearance. I came home, came out to my parents, and began the process of explaining what it was going to mean to have a transgender son.

Come fall, I returned to my college in Ohio and began the process of social transition. Again: the only physical change had been a haircut. I'd been wearing baggy t-shirts and men's jeans or shorts for years. Then came Parent's Weekend and the last time I used the female restroom at my college. Despite knowing myself to be a man, I continued to use the restroom of my assigned-at-birth gender because my college had no transgender policy. A parent entered the restroom and saw me at the sink. She hurriedly apologized and left. She checked the door, read the capitalized "WOMEN" and reentered to walk very quickly to a stall without looking at me.

I had just frightened a woman because I'd needed to use the bathroom while studying in the library. From that point on, I would gather up all of my belongings and exit the library to move to another, smaller building with a unisex bathroom when I needed to use the bathroom. As this was obviously a hassle, I began to take control of the situation in the only way I could: I reduced my fluid intake and rearranged my schedule. I identified the buildings on campus where there were unisex bathrooms. I quickly learned that if I mistimed a trip and the cleaning staff had closed a unisex stall, I would have to hold it for several more hours.

Mostly, I became incredibly dehydrated. Having your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth is normal, right? Headaches were common, as was seeing blinding colors when standing up. Sometimes, I would stand up, take a step, and immediately need to sit down before I fell. There's being dizzy, and then there's feeling like gravity is abruptly pulling you to the side. Needless to say, this scared my friends a lot.

When I brought the matter to the college administration, it took a week and emailing four separate people to receive a concrete response. I had to have an in-person meeting, because apparently it was impossible to say "Yes, you can use the men's room if that would make you more comfortable" via email. On the positive side, I did successfully obtain the right to empty my bladder: I just had to ask for permission. Y'know, just like any other grown man.

Coming home for Thanksgiving break was a bit different. My parents took my sister and me to the Boston Museum of Science, because geek parents are awesome like that. The problem with a family trip into Boston, however, is that anyone who is out of their home from morning until late at night is going to need to use a toilet at some point. Wearing jeans and a flannel shirt and desperately hoping to pass as a butch woman, I used the bathroom at the museum. I had yet to legally change my name, so I knew that if I encountered problems and had to present my driver's license to the security staff, I would be better off in the women's room. I would like to state for the record that I did not want to go in there. It was large and crowded with mothers, teens and even a boy who must have been at least eight. Silence followed me in, but it did not follow me out.

"What was it?"

"I think that was a guy."

"I don't know."

"Shh, there it is!"

That was the last time I ever used the women's restroom, and I was glad to leave. My father coached me on men's room protocol in about two sentences, and I've encountered no problems. I've forgotten what it feels like to be properly hydrated or feel safe in a public restroom, but my presence is accepted without a second glance. No one in the men's room is looking at anyone else anyway.

To sum up the point: I cannot use the bathroom of my assigned-at-birth gender without causing a disturbance. I cannot do this without being viewed as a threat or a pervert. I cannot do this without being treated as an object of mockery. I can't imagine how difficult it is for non-binary trans people or other trans people who are consistently misgendered. I'm actually one of the incredibly lucky ones. Yes, it's legally expected that I don't have bodily functions, but I'm still one of the lucky ones. How's that for a definition of luck?

Refusing trans people the right to use the correct bathroom is not going keep men out of the women's restroom. It's only going to force us to stay.

Originally posted to cmartin on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 11:08 AM PDT.

Also republished by TransAction, House of LIGHTS, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I worked in a big building 20k sf with 1 bathroom (12+ / 0-)

    I was washing my hands at the sink and a guy came in to use the toilet , he got all pissed off because I didn't lock the outside door to keep him out . The sink was 10 feet away from the stall and the stall had a locking door .
    Another day I was washing my hands and a beautiful young woman came in walked right past me and went into the stall .
    Some people are so weird about bathrooms .

    I go to a place almost everyday , it has two bathrooms , one is nasty and one is nice . When a man tries to use the nice one a worker will tell him he can not unless he is a worker there , when a women goes to the nasty one that has a "men's" sign on the door no one says a thing .

    The workers never use or take care of the men's room , it often has no tp , hand towels or soap .

    When the workers go into the women's room and see that something is missing they come back out and get whats missing and restock the bathroom .

    Have you seen these ? Good for trips .
    http://relianceproducts.com/...

    "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

    by indycam on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 11:42:15 AM PDT

  •  I've never seen what you described (7+ / 0-)

    in the ladies room.  But now I know what I'll do if I ever do see it - call them out on their hate, loudly.

    Isn't it strange?  I always expect better of women...

    Democracy, if done properly, is rude, messy, and loud

    by allensl on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 03:50:27 PM PDT

  •  just want to add -- there's never been anything (11+ / 0-)

    to stop men from dressing as women and using that disguise to attack women in restrooms. How often has it happened? Well, I've never heard of a case, but I suppose there might be one or two. (I googled it and saw several attacks on women in restrooms, but all by men dressed as men!).
    But that's got nothing to do with ending discrimination against transgendered people. If we continue to make a big deal about stopping someone from using a restroom that is not "theirs" by birth, it won't prevent some crazy male rapist from attacking a woman in a restroom. And if we stop discriminating, it won't make those attacks more likely.
    The whole bathroom thing is just a scare tactic used by the right wing to help them continue practicing their bigotry and foolishness.
    My wish for you for the near future is there are lots and lots of unisex bathrooms available wherever you go!

    We're not perfect, but they're nuts! -- Barney Frank

    by Tamar on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 04:16:45 PM PDT

    •  that's always mystified too (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tamar, Corvinus, kyril

      because it gets toted out as this inevitable problem. Sorry, what? I'd like to see the people shouting down trans rights due to rape concerns doing something actually productive about reducing rape or helping victims (this is not sarcasm -- if anyone actually has anything, I would love to see it).

      Pretty much that. Theoretical cis male rapist in bathroom issue / trans rights issue. It's very annoying to see the two conflated.

      Thanks.

      •  absolutely. (It's like the anti-abortion forces (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Zenara, kyril, mdmslle, glorificus

        who don't give a damn about living children).
        And just want you to know, I only peripherally know someone who is transgender (son of an acquaintance). Telling you this because of what you said about support from family and friends but the need for support from others. I really knew very little about the issues (and still am no expert!) until I started reading rserven's diaries. Daily Kos is not only a site for political action, but also educates people.

        We're not perfect, but they're nuts! -- Barney Frank

        by Tamar on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 07:47:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Men don't need to wear dresses to attack women. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tamar, kyril

      This is, of course, the difference between republicans and human beings. - Captain Frogbert

      by glorificus on Sat Aug 04, 2012 at 07:10:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I am not transgender (9+ / 0-)

    Nor do I know anyone who is TG, but I have a lot of sympathy and empathy for what all who are, go through. People can be ugly. As a woman, I have always used whatever bathroom is available when I need it, and thus often got weird looks, but I, like the honey badger, don't care. You got to go - then you got to go. Not to minimize your difficulties. Chins up, all! You are a child of the universe and have a right to be here.

    The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right. Mark Twain

    by BlueMississippi on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 04:22:48 PM PDT

    •  Thank you, honey badger. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlueMississippi, cai, kyril, glorificus
    •  I've been known to participate in takeovers (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, glorificus

      by women of men's bathrooms, when the lines to the women's were long and the men's were empty.  (I am a cis woman, though depending on the locale there have certainly been times I could've been taken for trans or genderqueer.  It's so interesting to me how what I wear on a daily basis could be drag in another part of the country.)

      I've also been known to use the "men's" family-style (one big room with a lock) bathroom when the women's is out of paper.  I got a look from a guy when I came out of one once -- not a bad look per se, more confusion.

      But to me, the most sane and compassionate thing would be to make most bathrooms "family style", each with room for wheelchair (and assistant), a changing table, etc.  I really don't see why one need even put a label on such bathrooms, other than "restroom."  Thankfully, I'm seeing more of that in newly constructed buildings now.

      © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

      by cai on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 09:00:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  When I worked in retail... (12+ / 0-)

    in the fitting room, we had a regular customer. I'm not sure what his sexual orientation was, if he was transgender, or in process, or cross dressing or gay, or whatever, but he went in the men's fitting room with women's clothes and dressed female generally. I often had to remind other customers that he had a right to use that dressing room just like they did. I also made sure I kept a close ear on that side when he was in it, and was aware when he came out, in case anyone gave him any real trouble. We were friendly and spoke a few times, but I never asked about it, just made sure I kept an ear on things. I had to be careful what I said and how I said it to the ones who were making noise about it, because I was working, but I always said something. If I hadn't been working I probably would have said a lot more.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 04:27:05 PM PDT

  •  ???? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlueMississippi, glorificus

    I had no idea that trans men had a problem with this issue.  As a cis woman, I occasionally use the men's room when there is a long line in the women's room, and I've never had a problem.  Maybe it's the venues I've been at?

    I don't understand why men's rooms seem to be such frightfully dangerous places, both for trans men and trans women.  Personally I think that both should use the men's room, for now.

    I know this is a politically incorrect viewpoint, but a lot of women's fear about trans women using the women's restroom is simply because they aren't out very much in society, at least visibly, so there's a lot of fear.  I think that all other rights should be fought for first--job discrimination, housing discrimination, being barred entry at public places--those are still real battles that need to be fought, even here in Massachusetts, and it doesn't help things by having this hot button issue confusing the argument.  It would be as if marriage equality was the first battle fought in gay rights.  This subject creates a visceral reaction in many people.

    And I don't know if I have a right to comment here.  I'm queer so I have to deal with this indirectly when I'm out with my girlfriend.  

    •  Do you have any idea (7+ / 0-)

      how dangerous it is for trans women to use the men's room? Even leaving aside the insult to their identity, men's rooms are even more physically unsafe for trans women than for non-trans women.

      Not that ladies' rooms are bastions of safety and security. Women can get pretty violent. But you're much less likely to be raped or murdered in a women's bathroom.

      "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

      by kyril on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 05:12:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, I have an idea (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BlueMississippi, glbTVET

        as I have, as I said, used the men's room on occasion.  If you want me to Victor/Victoria, I can.

        and it's as dangerous for them to use the women's room.  The men WITH the women can get pretty violent when they see someone who isn't passable using the women's restroom.  

        If a place is so violent that a woman can't use the men's room without fearing for her safety, then nobody should be using the restrooms.  And having a law on the books isn't going to help this much.

        •  If it's just as dangerous (4+ / 0-)

          for a trans woman to use the woman's room as it is for her to use the men's, then there's no reason why she should have to use the men's. It's always a personal call for any trans person, mind, but the fact remains that I'm personally taking the more dangerous option because that is actually more comfortable for me. Many trans people have to deal with dysphoria, an extremely unsettling disconnect between gender and body (physical dysphoria) or gender and the manner in which they're treated (social dysphoria). Either kind can be bad enough to provoke panic attacks or other negative repercussions. Telling a trans woman she has to use the men's room is provoking social dysphoria -- not something you want to do to a member of a group with an incredibly high suicide attempt and success rate. It boils down to this: Is a cis woman told she has to use the men's room? No. Telling a trans woman that is to treat her as something other than a woman. That's just not on.

          True on the general safety issue, but bladders don't really care about things like safety. Trust me, they just care about being full.

          Having a law on the books would mean that if I were assaulted or worse in a restroom, the argument in court could not be derailed by "it wasn't supposed to be in there in the first place". If I legally have the right to be in there, I legally have the right to be safe in there. I know that wouldn't stop a transphobic bigot from hurting me, but I also know it's impossible to punish a perpetrator of discrimination when that discrimination is still legal. Small steps still beat a crawl.

    •  not putting toilets before lives here (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, Killer of Sacred Cows, mdmslle
      Personally I think that both should use the men's room, for now.
      I understand how this could look like a quick fix, but it treats trans men as men and trans women as men. Even if policy acknowledged that trans women are women, it would still be treating those trans women as men. Meaning that it would treat the identities of trans men as more valid than those of trans women. Yes, temporarily, but I think we can all agree we've got enough misogyny in the world without throwing transmisogyny on top of it.

      That, or it's lumping all trans people into the same category, a category which is for some reason in the men's room. True, trans* is an umbrella term, but that means we've already had a whole lot of lumping. At the risk of reinforcing the gender binary, if we're going to respect different cisgender identities as different, the obvious course of action would be to respect different cisgender identities as different. I realize that's an incredibly idealistic statement, but it's one worth stating and restating when in a fight to be acknowledged for who we are.

      ...a lot of women's fear about trans women using the women's restroom is simply because they aren't out very much in society, at least visibly, so there's a lot of fear.
      Building off of this--what with fear leading to anger, anger leading to hate, and hate leading to suffering--when three trans women were killed in April alone of this year, it makes going stealth look rather appealing. The GLAAD report from June of this year. 45% of LGBTQH hate murder victims are trans women, but they only comprise 10% of the survivors. I know I'm going overboard here with the stats and all, but people read comments and you said it: visibility is key.
      I think that all other rights should be fought for first--job discrimination, housing discrimination, being barred entry at public places--those are still real battles that need to be fought, even here in Massachusetts, and it doesn't help things by having this hot button issue confusing the argument.
      We have some job discrimination on the books now, what with the addition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII. Which is awesome on many levels, even though it's just a starting step. I know there's huge concern over ENDA getting passed and where people want to focus. Here's a question, though, a devil's advocate moment: how's the restroom situation at work going to turn out? If you have a scenario where someone's productivity goes down due to a bathroom scenario--avoiding it, dehydration, microaggressions from coworkers--that person can then be fired on the basis of reduced productivity.

      That aside: no, I am not putting the right to use a toilet over the right to not be attacked, raped, or killed. I'm not putting it over having a job or a home. At no point did I say "Bathrooms before all else!" What I am saying is "It would be nice if I could use a public toilet when I needed to and not wonder if something was going to go horribly awry. I would like that back." Discussing only one issue doesn't mean I'm denying other issues or even prioritizing them beyond the simple act of prioritizing what I want to (or even can) talk about. I would also like to point out that this is my first diary entry here, and starting with my personal experience makes sense.

      It would be as if marriage equality was the first battle fought in gay rights.
      While I can understand the parallel, I need to point out that this is a flawed metaphor. No one experiences a biological need to get married several times a day.
      And I don't know if I have a right to comment here.  
      You definitely have the right to comment. Dialogue is good. If you want to have a back-and-forth, awesome.  I can see you've already made a diary entry on the topic yourself.

      I made this diary entry because a lot of people are presented with the argument on the bathroom issue as "men in dresses will rape you or your daughters" when it really ought to boil down to "hey, I really gotta pee". I've had push-pollers contact my house to tell me that "the Transgender Bathroom Bill would allow men dressed as women" into female restrooms where there might be children. When that argument is being put out there, I don't see how I can make matters worse by pointing out that trans people have bladders too. I'd rather actively humanize than be passively demonized.

      •  I've never seen a 'female' restroom with a (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril

        urinal. They all had stalls WITH DOORS.

        So whatever personal plumbing is involved, No One Sees.

        This is, of course, the difference between republicans and human beings. - Captain Frogbert

        by glorificus on Sat Aug 04, 2012 at 07:15:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Powerful story (18+ / 0-)

    I'm just a regular old straight man, and I choked up at the story of your father lovingly guiding/guarding you in the public restroom, and your mother anxiously watching for your safety.  I know you face challenges and obstacles that most people will never have to contemplate, but it sounds like you have at least two incredible allies on your side.  I am moved.

  •  Only difference between your diary and mine (6+ / 0-)

    is using Ladie's restroom in a V.A. hospital.

    "1. Trans women are men in disguise.
    2. Men will disguise themselves as trans women to infiltrate women's restrooms.

    To which I reply:

    1. This is both false and offensive.
    2. Denying a group a basic right because someone entirely unrelated may try to impersonate a member of that group is nonsensical in the extreme."

    I agree. I go in there to do darn well what every other woman does. "Number 1," "Number 2," wipe, wash and leave. I even carry the tiny bottle of alcohol to clean my hands just to eliminate the need to go stand at the vanity to wash my hands. My fiancee bodyguards me sometimes for which I am grateful.  

    "Rmoney" says it all.

    by glbTVET on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 07:14:32 PM PDT

  •  Kidneys (5+ / 0-)

    Do take care an hydrate for your kidney's sake. I read about many female soldiers that didn't hydrate so they wouldn't have to go a night and wound up damaging their kidneys. Hopefully people will stop giving a shit about what others look like in a bathroom and just leave their shit in the toilet like (which is why we were there).

    The real reason repugs are against stem cell research : Someone may grow a spine for dems in the future

    by 207wickedgood on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 08:01:04 PM PDT

  •  I'm sorry your college was like that. (3+ / 0-)

    Our dorm had co-ed bathrooms (or single stall ones), but I hadn't even thought about what it would be like to feel like you couldn't go at libraries and classroom buildings.

    Also interesting to me, how (some) cis women can feel like they can bang on a men's room door to check if it's empty, and then go on in.  And you, who actually should have every right to be there, are afraid.  More cis privilege, in a weird way.  (Though usually only because of a history of sexism, i.e., inadequate women's facilities in a building.)

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 09:07:36 PM PDT

  •  women do get attacked by men in bathrooms (0+ / 0-)

    I was once in a dangerous situation myself.

    If you appear to be a man and enter a woman's bathroom of course the women will get nervous.  I know it is difficult for you but I don't see what else can be expected, unless establishments have toilets with single stalls.

    www.tapestryofbronze.com

    by chloris creator on Sat Aug 04, 2012 at 07:48:28 AM PDT

  •  "There it is"? How awful. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril

    I'm sorry you were talked about in that manner.

    On the plus side, I was surprised to find a coin operated public restroom last time I went to Long Wharf.  More unisex accomodations like that would help everyone, including trans men and trans women.

    "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
    Mitt Romney is not the solution. He's the PROBLEM

    by TrueBlueMajority on Sat Aug 04, 2012 at 10:08:57 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for posting! (0+ / 0-)

    I'm a pre-op transman and since my body is still so obviously female I still use the women's room. I've had women come in and see me from behind and go out to check if they're in the right place. It's definitely demoralizing.

    At concerts I've had busy restroom attendants direct me to the men's room after a quick glance - but I go to the women's room anyway.

    I've gotten so used to people looking at me and saying "what is that??" that I forget that it's not normal.

    At least I know it will get better in time. Same goes for you too ;-)  Best of luck!

    Maybe just maybe our foremothers and our forefathers came to this land in different ships. But we're all in the same boat now. - John Lewis

    by bluesheep on Sat Aug 04, 2012 at 11:51:14 AM PDT

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