To be perfectly honest, I am actually really surprised this is a topic that presidential candidates are addressing. Seriously, it’s one thing for people to get upset about marriage equality. I can almost kind of (not really) get how people might think that what other people do somehow devalues what they do (okay, I don’t really get it…but they don’t get me either…but I’m right I think in that my perspective doesn’t take away their right to be married, so my perspective is better be default…I think I’m right in this). But the fact is that most people really don’t know any trans people and I think it’s because they don’t know women like me that they don’t understand the incredible lack of danger a woman like me poses and that I am just as afraid of being assaulted in the restroom as they are (or as they are for their wimmen).
Now a quick disclaimer: I am a post-op trans woman who was born in California, a state that allows those who were fortunate enough to be born here the ability to change our birth certificates so completely that there is no record of any previous birth certificates…so as far as anyone is concerned, when I was born, I was assigned female at birth and as far as anyone can tell from a check of genitalia, I have the “right parts” to use the Ladies’ Room.
Another disclaimer: I’m also 6’1” and what is commonly referred to as a “brick,” meaning that I was graced with the physique of a linebacker.
Taking all those disclaimers into account and even given that I live in Southern California, I am still not quite comfortable in Women’s Spaces in that I often feel theGaze of others that would sometimes seem to say that I have intruded somehow. Not that I don’t enter these spaces, but I have to remind myself that I am not an intruder. I am not an intruder when I use the facilities or when I accompany my young daughter into the locker room at the pool where her team swims and wait with the moms for the girls to finish showering and changing. I am not an intruder when I use the same locker room to change or shower after using the pool myself (although I always use the curtained changing stall…for that matter, so do my daughter and her teammates. And here I am some 7 years after I began transitioning and coming up on the fourth anniversary of my surgery. And I am glad I live in Los Angeles and sad that there are so many places I still fear to visit.
I remember before my surgery, before all my documents were changed, when I carried a letter from my therapist in my purse that identified me as a trans woman under the care of a therapist and medically transitioning. That letter was my confidence to go to the bathroom. And this was in Phoenix, where I lived for awhile and where I lived when I began my transition. Where every trip into the bathroom had the worst case scenario of a confrontation in my head. A worse case scenario born of real conflicts that other trans women were subject to.
I promise you, I did not go to the restroom in public unless I REALLY HAD TO GO. I was fortunate to be in a job that had a single, non-gender specific bathroom, so there was no conflict there. But at the movies or restaurants or out shopping, I already felt the Gaze of others strongly, men and women both, and felt that I was being clocked constantly and they weren’t saying anything because they were more afraid of a confrontation than I was. I remember joining a gym so I could use the pool there and using it all of one time, because changing in the women’s locker room was so traumatic for me. In retrospect, I don’t believe I caused any other woman in the space any trauma because they did not alter their activities because of my presence. This has been true of the entirety of my experiences in women’s rooms and spaces.
Perhaps they don’t clock me and never have. It doesn’t really matter as I have always assumed they do and have and continue to and that is the source of my very gradually diminishing reluctance to occupy spaces properly designated for me to use.
I know a lot of trans women and some trans men and they almost all have a similar kind of experience, whether pre or post or non-op. Little panics born of what some people fear we are doing and all this legislation based on the fear of what we don’t do and are not doing ends up increasing my paranoia that someone will think that I, with all my proper documentation and body configuration, have simply undergone massive life changes for a perverse desire to occasionally hear another woman pee. And they will attack me. Or attempt to kill me. Or kill me.
This is what it is like to pee while trans in 2016.