Bathrooms (+ a little fear I have about this weekend)

July 23, 2011

Okay, so I really want to make this post mostly about my bathroom experiences, but first I’d like to express some fears I have about this weekend.  This weekend is Erin’s high school graduation party/family reunion out at my parents lake house.  This is also the first time that I’ve identified as trans at a major family function.  This is also the first time that my extended family has had public access (ie this blog) to details about my gender identity.  And THAT creates problems.  It’s not that I don’t want my family to know (or else I would have unfriended them before I posted this all over Facebook), it’s just that now I have no idea who knows and what they know.  I know some of my cousins are up-to-date with my blog, but have they told their parents?  Will they call me Peter (because this is the first time that I’ve ever gone by anything other than my birth name in front of my extended family)?  Will they be asking me about it all weekend (which really wouldn’t bother me at all, I’m just worried about taking attention away from Erin, because after all it is Erin’s party)?  Will nobody say anything at all and just ignore the whole thing (which is what generally happens when something unconventional is happening with someone in my family)?  I just have no idea what to expect.  And the scarier part is, I’m not sure how I will react.  I don’t want an overwhelming amount of attention pointed my way all weekend, and I’m not even sure if I will correct people when they call me by my birth name.  It is easy for me to correct people when I am surrounded by friends and people who are used to calling me Peter, but its a whole other story when I am in a room full of 30 people who have no idea about my life and are generally pretty conservative.  I love my family, every single one of them, but I’m just a little anxious about this reunion/party.  Of course, I’ll blog about it when the weekends over, but for now wish me luck.

OKAY. Bathrooms. I use a family bathroom or unisex bathroom whenever available, but if the choices are only men and women (this is exclusive and I encourage all of you to push for gender neutral bathrooms.  It is really important!) then I use the men’s restroom.  This started about a year and a half ago, when my physical appearance became more masculine (wearing a binder really made a difference, but also maintaining short hair, growing out my leg and armpit hair, wearing “boy” clothing, and just all around changing the way that I stand and walk added to my masculinity).  I use the stall (I have a device that allows me to use the urinal, but I really only use it if I am at a huge event where the likelihood of an accessible stall is greatly lowered), but this can cause problems.  Men’s restrooms are VERY different from women’s restrooms.  They are generally a lot dirtier, they smell like pee, sometimes the stalls don’t have doors on them (and most of the time the toilets are pissed on), and they definitely don’t have trash cans for tampons and stuff.  DIFFICULTIES.  If the stall doesn’t have a door I won’t use it, I’m not trying to have some guy walk by and see that I don’t have a dick.  If I am on my period and need to deal with tampons or pads then I have to sneak them in and then sneak them out to the big trashcan by the sinks.  It’s very sneaky and public and uncomfortable.  The reason that I do this instead of just using the women’s bathroom is because I get screamed at in women’s bathrooms.  Example: I was at Carowinds (an amusement park nearby) about a year ago and didn’t want to go into the guy’s bathroom because I was with people who didn’t know I was trans. I was avoiding tell them so I didn’t want them to see me going into the boy’s room.  I made a HUGE mistake and went to the girls room which consisted of like 20 stalls and 40 ladies washing hands, waiting in line, and using the bathroom.  From across the room (literally the farthest lady away from me) came this shouting, “What are you doing in here?  You can’t be in here you pervert!  This isn’t the boy’s room!  Get out of here right now!”, so every other lady between me and the shouting woman looks up and at me and begins shouting also.  Moms were grabbing up their kids, getting them as far away from me as possible, teenage girls were hiding in stalls, some old lady got up in my face and pushed me out of the bathroom.  It was humiliating.  I invoke a certain fear in people when I go into a ladies restroom.  Women are socially taught to fear men (and masculine presenting persons), that all men are sexual predators, and that any man who enters a women’s restroom (even if by accident) is a sexual pervert.  I have gotten yelled at, I’ve gotten shit thrown at me, I’ve gotten pushed and pulled out, I’ve gotten security called on me, so I just fucking quit.  I havent been in a women’s bathroom in 1.5 years and I have no intentions of ever going back.

Ladies restrooms are not for me, but guy’s rooms aren’t so easy either.  In addition to the sometimes missing stall doors and lack of personal trash cans, I am often very anxious about entering an all-male territory.  I’m a small guy and I still have a very feminine body, so I feel very vulnerable and defenseless entering a space where I might look like I don’t belong.  I have had guys say shit to me about being gay (because at first I often appear like I am a gay male (which is fucked up that people are stereotyping), well that or a teenage boy) but I just ignore it.  I had a guy once approach me in a bathroom for my number because he thought I was a really cute gay boy, but that’s a different story.  I have had store managers come pull me out of men’s restrooms and ask me about my genitalia (which is possibly the most inappropriate thing you could ever do).  Quite often the first thing that people say to me when they are confused about my bathroom choice is, “but you are a girl, right?  you have female parts, right?” How would they feel if I asked them about their genitalia every time they exited a bathroom?  It is just NO ONES business what kind of junk I have, what kind of junk anybody has, they do not have a personal right to know what’s in my pants.  I have also had guys to try pull up my shirt to prove that I have boobs and am therefore a girl (which is an unfair assumption, some guys grow breasts and not all women do).  It scares me.  To willingly enter a place where I know I am easily overpowered.

I have definitely encountered more physical harassment in guy’s bathrooms, but you know what, women’s bathrooms aren’t any better.  They want proof too.  They want to see my body and know my body and make sure I’m okay, that I’m one of them, before they let me into their space.  I feel like I am constantly trying to explain myself.  “Sir, you can’t be in here, this is the women’s room.”  Oh, sorry, I just need to stick this tampon up my penis really quickly.  And the thing is, I understand their confusion.  We are all raised in a society where they are only two types of people, masculine men and feminine women, and those two people have very specific physical characteristics that separate them.  I don’t fit into those guidelines.  I understand that I confuse people, that’s part of the reason I’m writing this blog, to educate people.  I just wish that the people I confuse could perhaps be a little less rude.

Dealing with bathrooms is a DAILY problem for me.  There is always a risk.  Not being able to have a personal space to use the bathroom, not being welcome in women’s or men’s bathrooms, being outcast and publicly humiliated on a regular basis is just one of the difficulties that I face everyday as a transman.

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3 Responses to “Bathrooms (+ a little fear I have about this weekend)”

  1. H said

    Peter, I don’t know you personally, but I encountered your blog through a mutual FB friend, and after this post, I just want to tell you that I am learning SO MUCH from you. THANK YOU for telling your story in this format. Thank you for an education that I need.

  2. enilc said

    i’m pretty sure that carrying a gun with you would solve most of these problems. just saying.

  3. Michaela Hinks said

    “Oh, sorry, I just need to stick this tampon up my penis really quickly.” I hope you’ve said that to people.

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