Bathrooms have always been wrapped in terror, for me. When I was younger, they were often a place to hide and cry, praying the bullies wouldn’t find me. Part of the fear, but not the source. As I got older, however, that changed. Going to the bathroom in a public space narrowed the world down to the two signs — “male” and “female” — and forced you to identify yourself with whichever one you picked.
For many people, they do this without thought. Without fear. They choose the obvious choice, and perhaps even scoff over the fact that there is a choice, for them. “Of course I am a woman,” she says, as she pushes open a labeled door. “Obviously I am a man,” he thinks, or doesn’t bother to think at all.
Unfortunately, for a small but no less significant portion of the population, this is not an easy choice. This is a huge barrier between personal identity, outward appearance, and a full bladder. When a transgender or genderqueer person goes to use the bathroom, they often have to make an on-the-spot decision that encompasses many things:
How well do I pass today?
Will someone look at me in the men’s bathroom and think that I’m a woman?
Will someone see me in the women’s bathroom and accuse me of being a pervert?
Will someone try to cause me harm? Or call the police?
Is it worth it?
Is it worth the struggle? Is it worth being made to feel like less of a human being, someone underserving of basic necessities, of a place to use the bathroom in peace … in order to try to be the person I really am?
The college I went to had a single building with gender-neutral bathrooms. They were in an out-of-the-way place that I only discovered because I happened to have a class there one semester. Since discovering it, those were my go-to bathrooms. Even if it meant crossing the campus or being late to a class, if I had the option of using those bathrooms, I did. The trek was still better than the terror of, “what if the wrong person objects to my using the gendered bathroom I’m most comfortable with?”
Trans and genderqueer individuals don’t have the luxury of getting a nice, safe box to sit in. Even for those who have transitioned fully in both identity and expression, they still can face hatred and harm for simply existing. Bathrooms become places of fear, because you never know when someone might decide to attack you simply because they are afraid of what they refuse to understand.
Gender-inclusive bathrooms would help to eliminate these problems. They would work to help make bathrooms a safe space for the people who use them. Cisgender men and women already have the privilege of feeling safe, of knowing they have a place. The people who are being hurt, the people who are needing protection, are members of the transgender and genderqueer community. We are the ones being accosted and we are the ones being screamed at. We are the ones being murdered.
I ask for you to ignore how we were identified when we were born, when we were tiny babies incapable of thought. Instead I ask you to accept how we identify now — now that we have grown and learned and changed into the people we truly are.
I love to write, I’m a voracious reader, and I enjoy being active. I’m a lifelong martial artist. I’ve worked for lawyers, doctors, and Disneyworld. I love to travel and learn about the world that I live in. My genitalia does not affect my hobbies, my interests, or my ideals. I am 27, I’m an aspiring author, and I am trans.
I should not have to be afraid of a bathroom.