Why I Am Afraid of the Bathroom

As a transgender person, I don’t take small things for granted. I appreciate the store clerk who calls me “sir,” my colleagues who don’t struggle with my name or pronouns, and most important to my daily routine, I appreciate every uneventful trip to and from the bathroom.

To cisgender (non-transgender) people, going to the bathroom is a small thing, a normal and thoughtless part of their day, as routine as breathing air. To me, many other trans people, and anyone who doesn’t fit rigid norms of masculinity and femininity, just locating a bathroom  where we will be safe causes anxiety, fear, and takes a great deal of time and effort.

There is widespread fear about trans people being able to go to the bathroom like everyone else does. Fear of how we might be different. Misinformation that somehow letting us go to the bathroom will make other people unsafe. Though there is no data to support that fear, there is data to show that trans people continue to be bullied, harassed, and worse just for simply existing. 

Efforts to legalize this discrimination towards and harassment of trans people through  so-called “bathroom-bills” have taken center stage in state legislatures in places like Massachusetts, Florida, Texas, Kentucky, Missouri, Arizona, and Nevada. These bills would not only fine trans people for using the restroom (up to a $4,000 dollar fine included in a recent California ballot initiative), but also criminalize and potentially send trans people to jail. We face fear, anxiety, and violence just by existing each day and these bills encourage further harassment and violence, attempting to legislate us out of public spaces.

When something as necessary and basic as going to the bathroom becomes the subject of ballot campaigns, school board meetings, and legislative battles, the message that we get is clear:  You cannot exist, you are not people. This violent message is often amplified for trans people of color, trans people living in poverty, and trans people with disabilities. By making it so difficult for trans people to use the bathroom safely, our very existence is challenged, resisted, and suppressed.

Thankfully, even with the rise in vitriolic anti-trans campaigns, there are stories of love and resistance to counteract them. This week, NBC Nightly News is aired a special on transgender children who are loved and supported by their families.  Laverne Cox was recognized in People Magazine’s 50 most beautiful people and Janet Mock announced that she will be sitting down with Oprah to discuss her New York Times best-selling memoir, “Redefining Realness.” 

Trans people are beautiful and brilliant and deserving of love, like everyone else.  We need to send that message to the young trans people when they hear their state governments are trying to take away their rights and their abilities to live in the world.

Fortunately, many of the anti-trans bills that we saw this legislative session died in committees, or on their state legislature’s floor. But some damage was done just by the fact that they were introduced and trans people were sent the message that we don’t deserve to live safely or with dignity. 

Stand with me and other trans people and support our right to exist and help tell the next generation of young trans people that they are loveable and beautiful and brilliant.

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Anonymous

This is stupidity

Anonymous

I have a bit of a difficult time with this and truly am not sure of what is absolutely correct and I don't wish to insult anyone. I think that to be fair to all parties, people who look like their "preferred" gender should be able to use those toilet facilities. If you look like, and dress as a woman, then use the ladies room...if you look like, and dress as a man, use the men's room. Simple. I just don't want to find myself next to a guy with a beard and suit on who thinks he should have been a woman and is using the ladies room! It's creepy...but beyond that...how can you be absolutely certain you're not in the same rest room with some kind of pervert instead of a true trans! I don't think we can or should give blanket permissions! I think it's either that, or start to build unisex rest rooms and let people choose their facility from the three!

Mandy

If people are truly worried about "perverts" in their space, why don’t we see any bills coming up to keep registered sex offenders out of public bathrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms? You would think that if people are really worried about what can happen in a private space, those who have already been convicted of crimes would be the place to start. But you don’t even hear whispers of that, because these bills are NOT about safety, they are about discrimination and transphobia

Marguerite Sibley

Transgender individuals deserve all the love and respect we have for all people. It is horrific that they should have to feel fearful about using public restrooms. Open your eyes and hearts - this is basic human rights!

Anonymous

No they need to use their restroom that matches their body parts!

Anonymous

Is this issue "only" for people who still have their birth anatomy, or is it also a problem for people who have changed their anatomy? I'm thinking of this both as a practical issue and as a legal issue. Does the law make a distinction?

RRR

So, does the ACLU support a 14 year old who has a penis but who says he is a female being able to join a Girl Scout Troop?

Nicole

I am a MtF Transsexual and I pass about 80% of the time. (about 1 in 5 people notice I am special)

When I am out running errands, I have to base everything around my house due to bathroom fears. I have a weak bladder, so I have to use the bathroom quite often. When I am nervous, its even worse.

I fear running into that perfect peril of the wrong person noticing and trying to stop me from using the bathroom when I absolutely cannot hold it, i will wet myself. In public. In front of someone who already hates me. Someone who would likely take glee in loudly calling attention to my embarrassing predicament.

I do not belong in the men's room for a variety of reasons. First, I am sexually attracted to men, but not women. Second, I am visually and sexually appealing to men. Third, I am in danger of assault in the men's room, violence or sexual assault or both.

These laws, if passed, make it even more terrible to be me. What if I am at a public event and have to use the bathroom. The Fair? A baseball game? The Mall?

Lastly, do natural women (also known as CIS women) really want men and other women looking them over for any "manly" features? If you are a woman who doesn't conform to someone's definition of femininity, do you want someone blocking your way to the bathroom and demanding you "prove" you are a woman? These laws punish EVERYONE to stop people like me from being considered full citizens.

Please, please stop worrying about me. I just need to pee. :(

Anonymous

We certainly don't want to deny anyone the right to empty his or her bladder. Maybe a safe and sensible answer is to have toilets that are unspecified sex for general use on a first-come first-serve basis. This is how it is done in many places outside the United States and not because of any transgender concerns. It is just the idea of providing a place for someone to relieve him or herself as needed. Many places already exist within the US, such as at certain gas stations where you are thankful if there is a bathroom at all.

If such a plan were implemented or hereafter adhered to when making new places of business, all of how one is dressed will immediately become a non-issue.

Anonymous

What does who you are sexually attracted to have to do with using the bathroom? What does "I am visually and sexually appealing to men" have to do with using the bathroom?

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