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.

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Paranoid Locker Room Fantasies (mostly about naked Trans bodies)

Remember the 80’s sex comedy? This is where men learned what girls did in the locker room (or conversely where women learned what men fantasized about what girls did in the locker room). I always think back to the scene in “Stripes” where John Larroquette is using a spyglass to watch female recruits taking a shower and says

‘I wish I was a loofah‘.

Such sexy fun times the girls were having where the men were not allowed to go! In these movies, men would go to great lengths, including cross dressing, to catch a glimpse of this sacred palace of sexy fun. And so you get an entire generation that has a very specific reference point for what locker room life is for women…what bathroom life is for women.

methinks the tiger may have a penis

methinks the tiger may have a penis

And you know what ruins that fantasy for them? The thought of a trans girl in their presence with, what one Daily Kos commenter called her “dangly bits” showing. Now for some men, this is their perfect fantasy. Many trans women have encountered these men. When I was pre-op, I was the object of affection of a gentleman who later showed no interest in me once my “dangly bits” were removed.

Many other men have reached the age of having daughters or having hypothetical daughters – I kid you not – and are very uncomfortable with the idea of penises in their fantasy locker rooms. There is this liberal fellow from said Daily Kos comments section:

I’m all in favor of people being allowed to use the locker rooms appropriate to their gender (and have no idea what locker room my sibling uses). I also live in this HS district though the news coverage today is the first I’ve heard about this.

That said, I feel that a penis in the high school girls’ locker room is just as inappropriate as a strapon would be, regardless of the gender identity of the person it’s attached to.

If this student has had SRS, then it’s absolutely inappropriate to bar her from the locker room. Until that time, I feel like my right to not have my (theoretical) 13-year old daughter exposed to male dangly bits trumps the right of the transgender person to be naked in the locker room.

If the class isn’t showering after PE or if the locker room provides private curtained off changing rooms for the students I’d be happy to change my stance on this, but in the open locker rooms I remember from my youth this would be inappropriate.

I like how he references the open locker rooms he remembers from his youth. Now to be fair, men’s locker rooms are pretty wide open. I hated them and even when I was on the swim team, I had a really hard time changing in front of guys. I was not alone in this. Most on the team tried really hard not to be seen naked. It’s a really uncomfortable environment. But women’s locker rooms often have a different layout than men’s, including private changing areas. I know the women’s locker room at the pool my daughter used to swim at had them and the locker room at the fitness club where I went once – before feeling really uncomfortable and not going back (and no, not because of the working out…my confidence in being in that space at that time was very low) – had them.

But this is not about reality. This is about the fantasy that men have, men like Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee:

“Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE,” Huckabee said.

“I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.’

It’s this really paranoid notion that teenage boys would endure the heavy social stigma of coming out trans, would pay the cost of therapy and the many associate family traumas, to “shower with the girls.” There is no reality in this statement. Just the fantasy that boys will do just about anything to see a real live naked girl.

In a strange way, I get these folks. We have been trained by media to think this is what boys want and so it is not a far stretch of the imagination to think that some boys would try to take advantage of policies designed to make life better for a marginalized minority. I keep waiting for it to happen, for some boy to live out his father’s high school sex comedy fantasy

From the movie “Sorority Boys” Oh, come on! He’s not even trying!

But I think what gets to some of these people who fancy themselves progressives and not at all transphobes, who are totally good with trans people so long as they don’t actually want rights or to be considered the gender they are. And they worry fiercely about the idea of a penis near young girls:

  The struggle is how to deal with a 16 y/o (3+ / 0-)

transperson who has not and who may never undergo gender reassignment surgery.

How do you deal with a penis in the girl’s locker room.  If it was attached to a guy, you’d never allow it in the locker room, as that would be disrespectful of the other girls.

Tough call.  I think the District is in a real bind, and I don’t get why the student is not more willing to work with an obviously sympathetic administration.

Thoughts?

How do you deal with a disrespectful penis? And why isn’t the trans girl to whom said penis is attached playing nice with everyone and keeping that naughty, dangly bit away from the other girls? (she is, actually, because she is probably grateful for the private changing space because nothing says “I’m different from the other girls” as loudly as a disrespectful penis). What the commenter doesn’t get is that she just doesn’t want to be singled out as having to do it when no one else does. It is like wearing a scarlet P.

scarletP

I always knew there was something different about that Hester Prynne!

There is really this notion that a trans girl in a locker room will go around exposing herself to other girls. It always makes me wonder if these men that are having this notion are projecting what they would do if given the opportunity to let it hang with the girls…

Protecting Our Children From Predators! (they are not the Trans you are looking for)

So yesterday the “good people” of Houston overwhelmingly rejected a measure that said:

No Houstonian should be discriminated against based on race, age, pregnancy, religion, military status, sexual orientation or gender identity

because of an ad campaign that said:

Apparently, although there are no cases of trans women assaulting anyone in a restroom, people like camohat above (who would never believe in a statistic anyhow because facts are lies) want to preemptively protect them from some dude who, after he raped a woman in a bathroom, claimed he was legally able to be in the bathroom because on that given day, said raper dude claimed protected status as Trans (discounting the fact – darned facts! – that just because you can’t be discriminated against doesn’t mean you can go around raping people).

And yet these same very worried who want to preemptively protect their helpless wimmen from a threat that has yet to occur are still sending their kids to church, where children are being abused on a fairly regular basis.

Like in Alabama:

Al.com reports Mack Charles Andrews was pastor of the First United Pentecostal Church in Thomasville and principal of Faith Christian Academy when the alleged crimes took place.

Andrews is expected to stand trial next month and is charged with multiple counts of rape, sodomy, sexual torture, attempted rape and sexual abuse.

[…]

Jane says she lost her virginity to her pastor on her father’s grave when she was just 9 years old, and explains how Andrews used religious superstition to terrorized her:

He told me if I didn’t say anything, he would come back and put flowers on the grave. If I did, he said demons would come and get me from my bed.

AL.com reports Jane was subjected to sexual torture prior to the rape, noting Andrews allegedly violated her with drumsticks, pens, letter openers, a figurine and even a flashlight, “grooming” her for future sexual abuse.

Jane reports the heinous abuse began when she was only 7-years-old, and was part of the “grooming process”  to prepare her for the rape she would endure two years later.

Oh, but this is just one case. We can’t judge all pastors and ministers on the basis of just one case (even though Trans people are judged based on no cases)

How about this in Georgia:

In Georgia, a high placed Republican political consultant and youth pastor is accused of forcing boys to perform “hundreds” of sex acts while videotaping them doing it at the First Baptist Church of Vidalia.

Jim Collins, currently a political consultant and former youth pastor at the First Baptist Church of Vidalia, is accused of telling boys in his church youth group to perform “individual sexual acts” and videotaping them doing it.

[…]

At the Bible studies at Collins’ home, Stanley says that Collins soon abandoned all pretense of Scripture study:

Under Collins’s direction, the group began to view pornography together at Collins’s home. He encouraged each boy to engage in individual sexual acts, both privately and in a group setting. On at least one occasion, Collins videotaped these sexual acts as well, causing additional harm to Matt Stanley. Collins also engaged in highly inappropriate, sexualized physical contact with many of the boys, including Matt Stanley. 29. In addition, Collins sexually abused Matt Stanley and the other boys in these ways on church-sponsored out-of-town trips during which Collins served as First Baptist Church’s adult chaperone for the boys.

Okay, you say, that’s two (this week!), but these are just a few isolated incidents. We can’t judge all youth pastors based on just a few isolated incidents…oh, wait…

In fact, there are studies that demonstrate that the faith community is even more vulnerable to abuse than secular environments. The Abel and Harlow study revealed that 93% of sex offenders describe themselves as “religious” and that this category of offender may be the most dangerous. Other studies have found that sexual abusers within faith communities have more victims and younger victims. This disturbing truth is perhaps best illustrated by the words of a convicted child molester who told Dr. Salter,

“I considered church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians. They tend to be better folks all around and seem to want to believe in the good that exists in people.”

And then of course, there are all those incidents with Catholic priests that have been well publicized, but we forget all of those because the new pope is so cool.

Now I really don’t believe that we should legislate against children being allowed to spend time with youth pastors or priests. That would be ridiculous because most of these folks are most likely not raping children with drumsticks to prepare them for being sexually assaulted on their parents’ graves. Most ministers are probably mortified by the idea of forcing young men to have sex with them. But statistics regarding the prevalence of sexual abuse of children in religious communities are pretty frightening.

As a parent, I have to extend a certain amount of trust to the adults I occasionally have my children interact with that they will not molest them. As a teacher, parents have to trust that I will not assault their children. Otherwise, we would never let out kids out of the house.

And strangely, there are laws that prohibit abusing children, or sexually assaulting anyone, in bathrooms or wherever and people get prosecuted for doing these things all the time and there are no incidents of trans women being prosecuted for these crimes and far too many incidents of youth pastors, priests and ministers being prosecuted for these crimes.

And yet camohat and his ilk just voted to keep women and children safe from violence that statistically never happens and do nothing to keep women and children safe from violence that happens far too often.

Fuck them.

My Lack of Bathroom Issues

For as long as I have been actively engaged in things trans, I have read and heard quite a bit about The Bathroom and The Trans.

And it’s scary, neh?

I think there has been some part of my brain over the last two years of using the bathroom appropriate to my gender that has been prepared to deal with a confrontation. The fact is, and it is a fact, there are a lot of trans people who have to deal with confrontations related to using the bathroom. It seems to be the primary source of sturm und drang for trans people and those who want us to never use the bathroom. But the truth for me is that I have never been accosted or harassed whilst peeing or whilst washing my hands.

Does that make me lucky?

Prior to my name change, and that is prior to getting an ID card with the letter F on it which would seem to signify to anyone who might possibly looked at it that the appropriate restroom for me would be the one with the picture of the stick figure in a skirt (could be a kilt, couldn’t it?), I carried a letter from my therapist which noted that I was currently in treatment for GD and therefore not just some random guy playing dress up so he could hear women peeing or rape them. So when they cops or security were inevitably called, I could whip said letter from my purse and be all like

In your face, I’m trans, bitches!

(or something less confrontational)

And they would politely leave me alone? I kind of suspected the letter might keep me from some horrid punishment, but it really was more a security blanket for me, a thing that said that someone said it was okay for me to pee in the women’s room. And I showed that letter to all of no people.

None. Not a soul ever saw the thing. Nor has a single person ever asked to see my ID.

Now don’t you use the P word (ya know – pass), because I don’t like it and I don’t do it. I exist and I am.

Maybe it’s because of my attitude that I don’t have issues or maybe it’s because I’m lucky to have not come across someone who has wanted to make an issue of me and it could still happen.

There is that part of my brain that is still prepared just a little to be confronted – J’accuse! …or more like the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers where Donald Sutherland does that horrible open mouthed screamy pointy thing. I have no worries of ultimate vindication, but in between the horrid moment of being accosted and having to vindicate myself, I would have to have that experience.

No one should have to have it. It shouldn’t be an issue. Even not having had an issue, I still have the fear of one and that is an issue in and of itself.

We should all just be able to pee in peace.