Specifically, I wrote a thing for The Toast, which you should all be reading in general because it is wonderful. You should read my piece at least five times each so the editors ask me to write more things for them.
I know I’ve written about this before, but I have a thing about public bathrooms. It’s not a phobia, it’s not an irrational fear, it’s a reasonable (I think) reaction to years of problems in public bathrooms. I’ve spent my entire adult life knowing that every time I step into a multiple occupancy women’s restroom, I run the risk of any number of outcomes that have happened to me time and time again: a woman enters, sees me, exits, and re-enters sheepishly. Someone tells me, “This is the ladies room.” A woman does a double-take. A woman laughs at me. Someone calls security on me. A woman stares me down like I’m wearing a t-shirt that says I’m here to molest your daughters.
I’ve had trans* women tell me I have more problems in bathrooms than they ever have.
A place that should be so simple, so basic, so available to me whether I just need to pee or check my hair or change my tampon has turned into a place I loathe. I will go out of my way to patronize bars and restaurants with gender-neutral (or just single-occupancy) bathrooms, but there are a lot of other things I do hoping to avoid all my favorite worst case scenarios. So, in no particular order,
Things I Do in Public Bathrooms (That You Probably Don’t Even Notice)
1. Send in an advance scout.
When I’m in a new bar or restaurant, I’ll often wait until another woman in my party visits the little girls room so that I can get a little recon. Is it multiple stall? Single stall? Gender-neutral? (Be still, my heart!) One of my favorite new bathroom configurations is at Publican in Chicago. Stalls are labeled M or W but they’re all single stalls and everyone uses the same big fountain sink, so nobody’s weirded out by washing their hands next to someone they think is a dude.
2. Bring an escort.
Especially in big, multi-stall situations (think airport or movie theater) I’m prone to going in with reinforcements. I’ve never really bought into the omg we have to go to the bathroom togetherrrrr! mentality, but I feel a lot safer walking into a bathroom, casually chatting with someone who is quite obviously a woman (or at least more obviously a woman than I am). I figure other women are going to know that a lady isn’t just going to waltz into a bathroom with her dude friend, so I must be safe.
3. Emphasize the goods.
I’m not the breastiest (and I know that apparently women use other cues, like haircut and wardrobe, when they’re deciding who does and doesn’t belong in a public bathroom) but I do have a pair of boobs, and I tend to try to accentuate them when I’m walking into a restroom. My whole posture changes, I’ll pretend to adjust my bra strap, or I’ll reposition the strap(s) of a bag to accentuate the boobs.
Aside from wearing things to draw attention to certain parts of my anatomy, I’ll also momentarily ditch my baseball cap or throw a canvas bag on my shoulder. I’ve also been known to gesticulate with a tampon.
5. Get outta dodge.
The point at which I’m most likely to have a bad run-in is when I’m washing my hands. Most public bathrooms are laid out so that you walk in and immediately see the sink(s), or else come upon them from around a corner. Surprise! So I have a tendency to rush the whole hand-washing procedure–sometimes ditching it completely if I think it’ll get me out of a bathroom without running into another woman. Sadly, the very things that mark most women as la di da, just a lady here, like checking your hair or your outfit in the mirror, are the things that take too much time–I just don’t risk it.
Here’s the thing I don’t get. I’ve spent over a decade getting called out by strangers (some women, some not) for being in the “wrong” bathroom, but I have never–not once–found myself in a bathroom with someone whose appearance was so objectionable that I felt the need to say something. I’ve never felt unsafe in a public bathroom because I thought there was a dude in there with me–just tormented by other women.
At school yesterday, I was waiting for a colleague to finish talking to another teacher. She turned to me and said, “Yes, sir.”
And then died a little.
It was clearly one of those it’s-Friday-and-I’m-fried things, a simple slip of the tongue. She was mortified. She even mentioned it to the next person who walked by–“I just called her ‘sir!'”
And I laughed along, and was greatly amused by the whole thing.
But then suddenly it struck me: I’m not out at work.
You know, despite my yen to have a bigger readership, there are definitely some advantages to running a small-time blog. Case in point: bigger blogs probably have to deal with comments like this all the time:
So what, people can’t have sexual attractions to specific people? Oh, I know, I should stop going after people I find attractive, suppress my desires and live a ‘normal’ life. OH WAIT WHERE HAVE I HEARD THAT ONE BEFORE? Jesus Christ, you have such a double standard.
Thanks, random commenter! Read the rest of this entry »
Today I’ve been thinking a lot about one of my favorite Onion articles of all time, from way back in 1996: Area Homosexual Saves Four From Fire.
I’ve been thinking about this fantastically tongue-in-cheek headline because of another headline that’s not kidding at all, not even in the slightest: Texting Trolley Driver Is Transgendered Male.
We need our own Trans Political Groups
I posted this as a response to NH not passing trans rights, but I would like more people to see this…
Transgender issues will never be a priority for LGB(t) groups. Whether that is achieving laws, changing policies, or advocating for resources. I am not just saying this because I am part of MTPC, but if we want our community to be equal then we need to do the work. LGB(t) can support this, but we need to be steering that ship and not waiting for LGB(t) groups throw us a bone.
There is more to equality/rights/liberation then just passing non-discrimination laws. I think California is a good example – even though they have non-discrimination laws many trans people are still experiencing employment/poverty issues, so they next step is services, job fairs, education etc… and that is what Transgender Law Center does and this is and will be the types of stuff MTPC will do before and after a law passes.
We need our transgender organizations to advocate for us… we cannot wait for HRC, NGLTF, or MassEquality or any other state equality group to do it for us. We need to do it ourselves which means we need to fund our trans organizations, we need to volunteer, and we need to show up.
The other issues with NH was that not that many trans people showed up for the hearings on the bill, not that many trans people made phone calls to their legislators, not that many trans people got their friends to call.
We can be mad at larger orgs for not pushing as hard as they should have and for putting marriage first, but we also need to hold ourselves accountable when we don’t do our own heavy lifting. And yes those larger LGB(t) orgs did put all their money and resources to marriage in NH. We need to do they same – we need to put our resource into our own movement.
If you have a job, then start donating (if you don’t already) to a transgender specific advocacy group in your area and/or NCTE – monthly, $5 a month does make a difference when we have several people doing that. If you can do more then do that. I give to several transgender specific orgs, some monthly, others once a year. Lets get more transgender people hired to work for trans rights full time – it makes a huge difference to have trans people at the table advocating for rights and resources. We are the experts on our lives… we are not some LGB(t) group.
If you don’t have money then donate your time and show and do something…
I know I sound like a broken record, but after doing this for over ten years and the reality is no one and I mean no one is going to fight as hard for our rights, for resources for our community then we are, trans people.
LGB people don’t get us and I don’t think they ever will…(and I also identify as being queer) yes they can be our ally, but our issues will never ever and I mean never be their priority. We as the larger trans community need to stop thinking that someday they will. The LGB(t) orgs are not going to save us. As long we have no power or influence in their organizations, meaning on boards and big donors, trans issues and the needs of the trans community will never be at the top of the list. There is no incentive for that. Our needs will always be pushed to the bottom.
So yes be mad at HRC or NGLTF or your state marriage group or equality group, but do something more with that anger…
We need to be our own movement, we need to make our allies and not just with LGB groups, we need to fund our own organizations, and push for our own rights.
We can do this, I know we can…
In summary, both Feministe and Feministing threw up “Yay NH!” posts after marriage equality passed in the Senate. After commenters quickly called them out on not mentioning that the senate also rejected trans* rights protections, both Jill and Vanessa updated their posts to include that information–although in both posts the update was more along the lines of “Whoops! And also this happened” with little discussion or information. (Jill gets more credit for linking this article and quoting three paragraphs; Vanessa’s update consisted of two lines and two links, one of which was actually another Feministing post.)
So why wasn’t the anti-discrimination law on the radar, and why does it matter that it only got tacked on to these two posts?
I hadn’t heard anything about the controversial Erika Moen cartoon (I’m not linking it directly, partly because several people have said it’s really triggering for them, partly because I don’t want to give her the traffic, and partly because she’s completely disabled comments on her livejournal, which I think is a really questionable strategy) until I read this Feministe thread on the fetishization of trans* people. I’ve been watching comments unfold there, but more importantly I’ve found really interesting discussion about the comic–and links to other comics–winding all around the internets.
So, it’s time for some links.
Let me start this out with a disclaimer: I don’t watch local news. Like, ever. My parents watched it somewhat regularly when I was growing up, and I’ve often found shows like 60 Minutes interesting, but I’ve never been a news-watcher. I also don’t regularly read any newspapers or news publications. I very selectively read the Times and the Boston Globe online, mostly for technology and education stories, and I occasionally read an article or two from Time or Newsweek when they come in at work, but they’re not really on my radar most of the time.
I get the vast majority of my news from blogs I frequent and, perhaps most importantly, from Twitter. (And I now try to share alike–anything that I read that strikes me as interesting or important gets tweeted.)
So it was sort of like major culture shock to look at the recent local news coverage of various proposed non-discrimination legislation.
I did read (and enjoy) Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl, and at the time I definitely had a “Holy crap, I never even though of that!” moment over why trans _____ (with a space) would be a preferable term over the all-one-word variation. (Note: I’ve definitely seen some trans* folks themselves use all-one-word constructions, and I would never think I have any right to tell them how to speak or identify themselves. But, as Cara from The Curvature pointed out to me via Twitter, so far I haven’t heard anyone say that leaving the space in is offensive, whereas plenty of people have said sans-space most certainly is. And when someone tells me I’ve said something offensive, I make it a policy to listen.) But apparently at some point I forgot.
Anyway, that’s why I just systematically went through my blog and adjusted all my language to get the spaces back in–thankfully there weren’t too many, so I guess this hasn’t been a very long lapse, but it was a lapse nonetheless, and I’m sincerely sorry.
I’m also sorry that I undoubtedly made the same mistake many times over in the recent gargantuan comments thread about bathrooms, public access and Focus on the Family over at Feministing. Again, several other people there self-identified using the all-one-word construction, so perhaps my usage didn’t stand out much, but I really wish I could go back and change it.