On Being A Transwoman in a Bathroom

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.

Words, words, words.

So contentious trans people are all up in arms about contentious trans words again.

*sigh*

Some time ago when I was dialed into trans, what I discovered first was that, as a “community” we are as divided as the many sects of Christianity and all certain we are right, even the very crazy fringes that may be made up of just three people who believe they are chosen to speak some manner of truth from on high. We are united by our divisiveness. It’s like high school.

And just like high school, people’s feelings get hurt and people hurt other people’s feelings and the popular kids tease the freaks and geeks, who hate the popular kids and casually deride them and-

You see where I’m going with this.

So you don’t like the contentious trans word. I couldn’t care less about it. I don’t use it because whatever. I don’t use a lot of pejoratives for the same reason. It’s much more fun to insult people for being idiots than for some element of their identity. You can’t help who you are. You are responsible for what you do.

And yes, some people use words as they commit deadly violence.

And some just commit deadly violence.

And, yes, some people will use contentious trans word and may even call me said thing to hurt me. They may also call me contentions female words and contentious Jewish words (or, shhh, contentious gay words) and if they commit violent acts on me I really won’t care either way what they were calling me because I’ll be getting hurt by the violence.

If you feel strongly about this, it’s your right and privilege to preach it. I’ll consider what you have to say either way. I generally think everyone is wrong, but I generally always think that about everything.

If you don’t care and are on the sidelines because this will blow over the way every contentious trans/lgb (but mostly trans because no one can insult trans people the way trans people can) infight blows over then you are probably with me eating popcorn and watching the show.

What are the worst things you ever heard?

Dear readers. I’m putting together a project and am in need of some help. I would appreciate if you could share in comments the worst trans-related insults you have heard either in reference to yourself or to trans people in general. I know there are all kinds of triggers and whatnot, but ultimately, my goal will be to pull every last one of them.

Thank you in advance.

if trans women aren’t welcome, neither am I

I highly recommend this piece.

Sex Geek

The question of whether or not to include trans women in women’s sexuality-based events is old and tiresome, but it still comes up with some regularity. I recently responded to a discussion on this topic and I realized that it might be useful to post my thoughts here, as I don’t know that I’ve ever done so in full.

I see a few main underlying assumptions come up in these discussions, and I’d like to counter them. Some of these arguments are stated outright, while others seem implicit in the language people tend to use. Most counter-arguments I’ve seen focus on the stated arguments, but I’d like to incorporate the underlying ones too, which makes the discussion a bit broader.

Comments are welcome, as always. That said, I realize that comments on posts like this often veer into the territory of flame-war pretty quickly. As a result I’m going to…

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On Trans Fakers

Strange but true: some people who say they are trans (or were trans…) are lying.

Hmmmm.

Seems a strange thing to do, but the internet lends itself to strange fictions. It allows people to pretend to be other people. It is a game of sorts, role playing in a world where most of the characters are who they say they are. It’s not just a trans thing. It’s an internet thing and it happens in every corner.

But trans fakers are interesting to me. Some are easy to spot. Some are more difficult.

For instance, when I was in recovery from my surgery, I was befriended on Facebook by a person who was friends with some of my other trans acquaintances there. This person was very sweet and her positive messages were nice to hear whilst I was convalescing. One more supportive voice among many and I didn’t question it. We take all the positive energy we can, especially when healing.

And this person kept up with me for a time. I was interesting as I healed I suppose. But after a time, the messages stopped coming. Someone else was in recovery I suppose.

This person posted a lot of pictures up on FB and they were always of a young,  beautiful woman who was enjoying her life and, to be fair, I would never have read her as trans except that she said so. Additionally, an awful lot of space was spent discussing her marvelous breasts and it was kind of weird to me. I eventually turned off her feed. It bored me.

And now it has come out that this person is a faker, a role player who has been at it for a long time and I wonder at the dedication to the play.

The same way I wonder at any of the other fakers, the ones who claim trans identities for any number of reasons that I am not qualified to identify (there are a great number of lay psychologists out there who know a term or two to apply and are eager to do so…I’m not one of them). I’m not entirely sure why this would be the community to choose to role play within except that trans people on the interwebz do tend to be chatty and, in general, do not question the validity of someone else’s identity…

Oh. I wrote that. Ha.

Perhaps it is because there are so many questioning the validity of others that it is easy to turn this kind of criticism around as a spiteful or jealous attack or an attack by someone who feels they have the right so say who is or who is not trans.

This makes me wonder if these fakers are completely dishonest about their trans identity. Perhaps the only way they can express their trans identities in their lives is through this online role playing. Should I feel for them if this is the case? Does their online fiction make my reality less valid or damage my ability to live in this world?

It hasn’t directly as of yet that I know of. Perhaps their actions slowly chip away at the overall validity of trans people everywhere.

What I do know is this. A relative stranger on FB who had some validity because she knew people that I knew befriended and comforted me, was kind and lovely and chatty and ultimately boring and banal. And it turns out she was not really who she said she was.

And life goes on with no real harm done.

Weird (not passing as normal) – a morning rant

For the record, I’d rather be weird than whatever lies in some kind of opposition to that, which some might call normal I suppose. I don’t really believe in normal. I believe that people attempt to pass as  normal in the hopes that no one discovers they are weird in some manner, unique in a way that would potentially embarrass them because suddenly they would separate from the flock and, as a result, could perhaps be shunned.

Shunned! The horror!

No, fuck that. I despise the pursuit of normal. I reject the safety of normality, of false belonging. If I am deemed weird – in action or appearance or thought – then I am doing things right. I don’t blend. 

Is that what you want? To not be noticed? I see it in students. Not just mine, but the ones I went to school with that averted their eyes the the professor was looking for a response in the hopes of not being noticed. The ones that were happy to see me raise my hand and weirdly embrace not caring if I was right or wrong, but simply trying out ideas I had to see if they made sense. That’s how it is with most people and, if so, that must be what normal is…the cowardice of hiding in plain sight.

I’ll have none of it.

The most important thing for some trans people is “passing” and they miss the point that in trying so hard to pass, they are attempting to not be themselves, not own who they are. To be something close to a normal man or a normal woman and missing that being normal is the dullest of ambitions. I strive to be authentically me. The process of transition has been about learning who that person is. And, yes, I like the trappings of the binary, but that’s part of who I am. I like to look a certain way not because I’m afraid of the attention but because I like to look a certain way.

I don’t seek to pass or to hide because it’s unnecessary. If people are going to take issue with me, they will and I’ll deal with them as I can as I curse their worship of the myth of the normal. The fact is, most people don’t and fewer still do it to my face. The same fear that keeps them from raising their hand to answer a question they know keeps their gaze averted when they suspect I am not one of them. Let them avert their gaze. Let them shun me because I have already rejected them.

People say that trans folk are brave and we often downplay that…it’s not brave to take medicine to save one’s life. It is, however, brave to walk proudly in the sun, reject the constraints of false normality and be weird and wonderful (and, yes, some of us try so hard to sneak back into the church of normality that tries to bar its doors to us…it’s a sadly natural response).. We’re not the only brave ones in this regard…far from it. Most of the people I associate with are both wonderfully strange and not trans and, in that, I add them to the lists of the brave ones who know that it’s better to live life in the warmth of a metaphoric sun than lob fearful stones from the shadows of normality.