Sorry about my last post. Well, not too sorry. It is fun to joke about things once in a while. Sometimes a situation is so ridiculous, you have to look at it from a crazy perspective just to shine a light on it. Bathrooms are silly and bathroom politics are too.
I have talked quite a bit about bathrooms in past posts but I have never really talked about them exclusively. Well, today is our lucky day.
As the famous lead singer of R.E.M., Michael Stipe once sang:
Transition is a trip. People who are not trans are lucky in some ways and they are missing out in others. Sure, I have my bad days but I also have gloriously good days, which were rare pre-transition. You really get a fascinating look into human behavior from the male, female and in between perspectives. The in between part is where I feel I reside right now. I knew going in that there would likely be an awkward phase where I was neither seen as particularly male or female. Life on either side of that binary is far more simple than in between, but it is also less enlightening. When you live between genders you really learn how much of a joke gender really is.
Bathrooms really drive this point home. What bathroom do I use? Well, I use the one that best corresponds with how I am presenting at the time.
Cisgender people often get confused by the fact that I may present as male on one day then female on another. I tend to socialize as a woman, but I do much of my shopping and other errands as a guy. Why can’t I pick just one? If I want to transition to female, why am I not just being a female full time?
I have several reasons/excuses. I do not have an extensive wardrobe. Just when I was getting there, I moved to Montana from Hawaii and all my clothes changed from just clothing to Summer clothing. They don’t work in Winter. My current wardrobe is lacking but improving. What else? Well, being female is a LOT of work. I am far from a prissy type of trans woman but I still have to focus on things most women take for granted like walking or gestures. I surprised many by coming out. People tended to see me as male and I fit the part. I still do. I fit it better than I fit the female role. It is easier to be male for me, at least right now. I don’t like this fact but it is what it is. Another reason? I have convinced myself that I am doing the public a small service by being gender fluid. It makes people think.
The main reason though? Bathrooms. They now really cause me a great deal of stress and anxiety. To top it off, one of my medications, Spironolactone, causes water to pass through me faster than I can drink it. This means, I have to make frequent potty stops. It used to be that I would use a bathroom in a supermarket like once or twice a year at most. Now it is almost once or twice a week. I have to sit on an aisle at theaters in case I need to get up and go. This is particularly embarrassing at plays, where the performances are live.
People see me get up and head for the restroom. I feel them watching me wondering which room I will enter. I know it weirds them out. It weirds me out too.
On days where I will be out for a good while, running errands and whatnot, I almost always go as a male or I present androgynously. I know it confuses people. This allows me to use the men’s room if I have to go. Honestly, few things can ruin my day like someone making a rude comment about me, while I am in a stall in the women’s room. Nobody ever has. Still, I fear it SO much.
In Hawaii, bathroom laws were VERY liberal. I could pick a room based upon my mood. In Montana, it can depend on which town I am in. There are also a lot more guns, and a culture of WHITE. I have lived most of my life as a white male, and yet, I get nervous around cultures dominated by my kind. The diversity of Hawaii or New York is much more comforting to me. Montana has a very Libertarian attitude towards most things, “Don’t fuck with my shit and I won’t fuck with yours.” which is not bad for a trans person, but the utter lack of diversity makes it feel impossible for me to blend in. That is an exhausting way to live.
When I present as female here, I always have one eye behind my back. I know many women reading this are thinking, “Well, duh! All women feel that way.” and I understand. Women have to deal with unwanted advances and the threat of sexual assault. I sometimes fear for my life in public places. This is new to me. Not only are trans people more likely than almost anyone to attempt or commit suicide, they are also incredibly likely to be physically assaulted, sexually assaulted and/or murdered. Especially trans women. Most of all, trans women who are minorities. Well, I am white, so there is that, but when I live in a state where white is the primary color, being trans makes me stand out. This place gives me the heebie jeebies sometimes. Where I currently live, homosexuals tend to stay underground. If gays and lesbians are underground here, I feel they may have a good reason to do so. I can only stay underground if I present as a male. I do not aspire to doing this my whole life, but in this environment… eeeeep! I hope we move somewhere else soon.
Shame is universal. There is a LOT of shame that simply comes with being trans. I waited 37 years to transition because of shame. I do not present as female full time because of shame. I fear bathrooms because of shame.
The shame of being trans is a huge burden at times. It has lessened greatly with hormones but it is still present and I worry. I worry about my safety, yes, but I also worry about others around me. I can easily feel like dead weight, an embarrassment. Why would anyone want to hang out in public with an eyesore like me?
Damn bathrooms! I use the women’s room when I am presenting female and you know what? It is remarkably similar to the men’s room. What’s most surreal, is using the women’s room at a place where I used to go as a guy. The layout is almost always mirrored and sometimes the paint is different, like pink stalls instead of blue, which I imagine most readers already knew. Neither room is glamorous. People do much the same types of things. Women get a bit more privacy at the expense of having fewer toilets. I sometimes have to wait with the rest of the women in lines, although I hate lines for different reasons than most women. The longer I am in line, the more chances people have to object to my being there, which is just awful. I feel the worst when I am in line with children and their parents. I can’t help but imagine what they are thinking, so I end up thinking those things for them.
I have many friends who have been sexually abused, most of them female.
I guess what I am saying here is: I understand why lawmakers in conservative states are trying to pass laws to keep trans people out of restrooms. The fear they feel about someone like me using a female restroom is irrational and there are very, very, very few cases of people impersonating women to get in a restroom to assault a woman but it is still a fear, much like the fear I feel by being myself in Montana. We already have laws against assault, we already have laws against lewd behavior, we already have laws against rape. A law, preventing me from using a female restroom would be redundant for all the reasons one might reasonably think it could be useful.
The unreasonable reason such a law would be passed is people don’t understand enough about why anyone would transition. Many think it is a kink or perversion. They want me out of the women’s room and back in the men’s room. I already live with enough shame. More than enough. Such laws would only reinforce my shame.
People really think weird things about trans folk. They often think we are sexually deranged. In reality, my naughtiest thoughts are so mundane, people would fall asleep to them. It doesn’t help that hormone therapy has almost killed my sex drive. I get the warm tingles from acts of romance and love. What does not turn me on is hearing the woman in the stall next to me taking a turd.
I feel like I stand out like a sore thumb. Most early transitioners feel this way, so while I understand why someone may wish to keep me out of the women’s room, I feel much safer there, especially in establishments where alcohol is being served. If I really wanted to assault women, I could think of far better places than the bathroom, and I could think of far less conspicuous presentations than as an obvious and awkward trans female.
Cisgender readers, ask yourself, “Have you ever been in a public place and seen a trans person? Did you feel uncomfortable?”
I am trans and I can answer yes to both of those questions. There was a trans woman who used to eat lunch at a cafe by the University of Hawaii where I would hang out if I needed to kill time and her presence made me very uncomfortable. She was SO obvious. Tall, extremely masculine face, WAY too much makeup, terrible posture, and she dressed like someone thirty years younger than she was. I was extremely uncomfortable whenever she was there. I also felt terribly hypocritical for thinking those thoughts. Once, I noticed her get up and head towards the restrooms and I watched her walk the whole way just to see which one she used.
I never thought to say anything to her. I spent a lot of time just gawking critically and feeling uncomfortable in her presence.
This woman was brave enough to transition well before I did. She never came there with friends, and her fashion sense, now that I think about it probably reflected the lack of support and advice she was getting from others. It reflected her shame.
I worked at a Waikiki swimming pool and I remember the terrible comments my co-workers would make any time someone looked even remotely trans.
Unless I learn to blend in, and that is NOT easy, I will make people uncomfortable by my very presence and that does not mean those people are just simple minded bigots. That is the hard, honest truth. My presence can make people think, and some of those thoughts may disturb them. Sometimes I embrace this new fact of my life and sometimes I get tired just thinking about it. It is kinda’ cool, having the power to make people question gender with my very presence. Not quite a superpower, but still…
That trans woman I used to see at the cafe? She brought out the transphobia in me. She also taught me by her very presence. I learned a bit about how to dress appropriately, to be understated with makeup, and to keep my friends close so I could lean on them for advice and protection. She taught me not to transition into HER. She opened my eyes to what my life would likely become if I was not careful… and perhaps, even if I was. She taught me humbling lessons but she did not stop me from transitioning.
It is just… I hate to say it… I understand the bathroom thing. It should be simpler than it is. Not knowing what the bathrooms will be like frequently keeps me from going out as a female. In spite of getting a slight thrill from freaking out the squares, I don’t want them to worry about their restrooms because of me. Restrooms should be taken for granted and I often enough put my transition on hold just so others can continue to have that luxury.
I do not need a, “Papers please” bathroom law. Trans people in general don’t. A certain percentage of cisgender people need such laws, or think they do, so they won’t have to worry about thinking certain dark and nasty thoughts when I walk into a room with them. I understand. My superpower can cause people to think things they would rather never think. They would rather live in a simpler world. A world of just men and women. Nothing in between. They would rather brush folks like me under the rug. It is not their intent to shame me. They just want to avoid having their own shameful thoughts.
I kind of envy folks like that. It seems so simple. They want laws in place to reduce the number of times they think things that make them feel ashamed. Really though, if lawmakers spent more time feeling ashamed of themselves, and asking themselves why they feel that way, they would do a much better job.