Let’s Talk: Bathrooms

Okay. So, I have a few topics that I really want to talk about. I have some strong feelings that I want to voice, in the hopes that maybe someone might understand. These topics aren’t really related, so over the next two or three days (or just today if I get really fired up), I’m going to post about various topics in my “Let’s Talk” series. Today’s topic is bathrooms.

So, there’s been a lot of talk in the news about trans* people, bathrooms, legislation, rape, and trans panic. And I’ve been seeing a lot of misinformation running around, incomplete information, and suggested solutions that aren’t really solutions at all, and I wanna voice some opinions and concerns on this.

So I suppose the logical place to start is some definitions to make sure we’re all on the same page. Let’s start with transgender people and trans panic.

A transgender person (not ‘a transgender’, ‘transgendered’, or ‘tranny’) is someone who’s gender identity does not match the gender assigned to them by birth due to the assumptions made by society by the genitals of infants. I’ll clarify. When a child is born, they are given one of two designations (and very rarely, a third). If you have a penis, you’re a boy (male). If you have a vagina, you’re a girl (female). If you have an uncommon lack or combination of both you are intersex, and most medical professionals will make a decision for you, followed by and operation on your genitals to “normalize” you, and the hope that you don’t grow up to feel different.

As a transgender woman, I was assigned male at birth (a penis-bearer), but I identify, feel, and live as a female. Who or what determines my gender identity? I do. Not the ‘secret bits’ between my legs, but the unseen bits between my ears. My feelings and thoughts determine it. Is it a choice? It sure isn’t. I’ve felt this way as long as I can remember, even when I didn’t have the words to describe it. There is no way I can truly make you understand. It’s something you have to experience to fully grasp.

And that’s where the problem lies. Unless you’re trans, you can’t understand how we feel or why. And that unknown is scary to many people. This is the root of trans panic. For many people, the very concept of a “man who wants to be a woman” is a disgusting and confusing thought. But therein lies the disconnect. I am not a man who wants to be a woman. I am a woman who just wants to be myself. End of story. I understand that’s a confusing thought. But you need to trust that what I’m saying and feeling is legitimate, and not a made up choice.

Fair enough, but we need to get to the point. I can feel many of you, dear readers, asking, “Okay, but what about bathrooms?” Good idea. What about bathrooms?

So, what’s the controversy? Cause the situation feels very muddled. Most of the arguments are about transwomen in the ladies’ room. (Note that no one seems too troubled about have a transman in the men’s room. It’s mostly about protecting the women.) People seems to be very worried that having a transwoman in the ladies’ room presents a real and present danger to women and children. Why? I’ve heard a few arguments about seeing a penis in the women’s’ room, but those are few and far between. No, in fact, most arguments follow a different rhetoric. “Without a law, any paedophile or rapist could throw on a skirt, walk in to the womens’ room and just rape people without recourse!”

First, no. Second, also no. And third, have you heard yourself? This logic makes literally no sense.

First off, without these laws, any paedophile or rapist could walk in to a women’s’ room and rape people anyway! But you know what? Rape and molestation is still illegal, bathroom bill or not. And the fact that this is the argument means you’re not actually worried about transwomen at all. You’re worried about cisgendered, perverted men having a new excuse to rape. And that’s an understandable fear. I get that. As a transwoman (and fellow woman) I am pretty darn worried about rape myself. Believe it. But we need to understand where this fear comes from: rape culture!

If rape is the real fear here, then we need to start a dialogue about rape! Go figure! We need to start talking about why rape is such a pervasive fear that we feel willing – nay, entitled to restrict the basic human rights of an already underprivileged and victimized demographic to feel slightly safer. Because we’re not afraid of transwomen raping anyone. Fun fact: there have been precisely ZERO documented cases of transwomen assaulting, raping, or molesting anyone in the ladies’ room. But there have been many cases of men raping women or children in either bathroom. (Many which happen to be conservative Republicans. Funny, that.) In fact, I went through the effort of doing some research on statistics. 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are the victims of sexual abuse, and out of those, 3 in 4 were assaulted by someone they knew! Not a random stranger in the restroom. Certainly not a transwoman, but a family friend or family member.

And, I’d also like to take a moment to point out that transgender people have been around for a long, long time. Pretty much since humanity has existed in all of its wonderful diversity, transgender has been one of those flavors. Transgender people have been Roman Emperors, holy mystics, and common people. We are everywhere. So what bathrooms do you think we’ve been using until the last three or so years? And even still, we haven’t raped anyone. Kinda makes you think…

Secondly, if you’re worried about some sort of indecent exposure, that’s not really going to happen. First of all, I’ve been in a few ladies’ rooms (you know, cause I’m a lady) and so far, they have all been equipped with private stalls with doors that lock and all that. Contrary to what might be public opinion, we transwomen sit to pee. So we use those stalls. We close and lock those doors. We quietly do what we came in to do, and then we wash our hands and leave, because inside, most of us are panicking about it. (Well, I am at least.) Believe me. No one is going to expose themselves to you. Hell, we hate exposing ourselves to, well, ourselves. We don’t want to see that, and we certainly don’t want anyone else to see that. (Of course, this is how I feel. Not every transwoman is ashamed or uncomfortable with their body, but regardless, we all know common decency, and no one is going to expose themselves.)

“Okay, but everyone deserves to feel comfortable. What about adding a third bathroom option, like unisex or single use bathrooms?” Admit it. A few of you were asking, weren’t you dear readers? Well, let’s talk about this “solution” real fast.

The first thing you need to understand about transgender people is that most of us – not all of us – but most of us, suffer from something known as gender dysphoria. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on this here, because it’s going to get its own Let’s Talk post, but in short, dysphoria is a feeling of discomfort that stems from the incongruence or disconnect between one’s biological sex and self-assigned gender identity. Basically, “I feel like I should have boobs, but I don’t have boobs and it makes me sad.” It can be mild, or it can be horrifically severe. It can happen at any time, no matter what. For instance, I’m currently suffering a severe attack of dysphoria as I write this.

But one of the things about dysphoria is that no one enjoys it. In fact, most people actively try to find a way to avoid dysphoria. Because all we want is to be “normal”. I just want to be a “normal” woman, and normal women don’t have attacks of gender dysphoria. Anything that reminds me I’m different makes me feel worse, and if it’s something publicly visible, whether realized or not, the feeling is worsened exponentially. Being forced to use your own separate bathroom is, in essence, a publicly visible walk of shame, reminding us that we are different from other women. It seems like a nice compromise from the eyes of a cisgender person, but to a transgender person, that is unacceptable. We deserve all the same basic rights and protections that are extended to our cisgender counterparts.

Now, there are a lot of other arguments I could bring up. Transwomen in the men’s room is more dangerous to transwomen than transwomen in the ladies’ room, etc. But I don’t need to harp all the same arguments being made. I’ve already retreaded some information in this post. But what I hope to accomplish with this is helping people understand where their fears really lie, and shifting the conversation to one that will actually help all people, instead of further marginalizing one group.

As always, thank you for reading, and if you liked this read, please let me know in the comments. Also, if there’s anything you’re confused about or feel that I left out, please leave a comment. Or contact me using the form on my contact page.

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