Public Restrooms Phobia?
By Hollis Taylor
Public Restrooms, a life threatening situation! I have puzzled over which bathroom was for me and why did it matter so much? I have used both male gendered and female gendered bathrooms. At one time I wanted to use the male bathroom most of the time because I desired to express my masculine side so deeply, before I found Drag. This extreme desire normally happens when I am forced into one side or the other of the gender binary, I crave the other side like a moth to a flame. Although if I stay on one side or the other for too long, I see saw deeper and deeper. I feel most balanced and experience less “gender dysphoria” when I am allowed to remain in the middle, as an androgyne. It took me 20 years to really and deeply understand this about myself. One of the ways that helps me understand what is happening is the understanding how the outside world was actually the source for my so called “Dysphoria” and it was constantly nagging me through bathrooms. As I stepped in as a guardian of my sisters when they went into female gendered bathrooms with me, I experienced the “life threatening situation”. It’s hard for us gender variant people to ignore the news reports when you hear stories about a transgendered person getting attacked in a bathroom. I know for myself, even before I came to realize my own gender variance, I was always concerned with the safety of my Transgender sisters when they went to the bathroom. I often would accompany them in hopes to deter violence. The fear that comes up about simply using a public restroom, that in the United States anyway, is a basic right. Public restrooms are a public service because when we all just pee and poo all over the place we spread disease, we learned this many centuries ago. The mere fact that public restrooms are gendered imply gender roles that are unfair for all of us. Regardless of our differences we are all the same, we gotta go, we gotta pee, we gotta eliminate our waste – we all rather have privacy as we do, what the hell does that have to do with genders.
As I explored my own dysphoria regarding bathrooms I found that its a definition, an identity, a marker, a reflection of belonging in our culture. You BELONG either here or there. You ARE FEMALE or MALE. An identity that held no space for someone like myself. There are hundreds of us, always have been and frankly always will be. So why do we ignore the other gender expressions? I explore the thought, “well they must be referring to sex” but frankly there are more than 2 sexes so its not purely scientific. I am left again with no good answer other than, its about gender roles.
I began to observe behavior in bathrooms from female, first, since that is the one I had most experience with. The people that used it were usually female bodied and usually talked about things if they entered in a group. If they didn’t know each other they just passed each other like you would anywhere else. I did notice women’s bathrooms had more privacy and were usually cleaner. I usually feel safer in a female bathroom but I am aware if my trans sister are NOT.
Men’s bathrooms were normally dirty and often less maintained. They also usually had a bit of a competitive edge to them that was unspoken and mostly in body language. I could easily raise suspicions about my gender expression if I was not careful about my body language. In that, using the men’s bathroom became uncomfortable for other reasons, other than just that it was dirty and competitive. If I was in a small town, in the middle of conservative country I am certainly also putting my life at risk. Seriously, I could die for using them men’s bathroom.
Using the bathroom, as I traveled into small towns and less friendly areas became a bigger and bigger issue. I am not willing to risk my life because I use a men’s bathroom, although if no one is looking I might just sneak in for a little “self satisfaction”. I can really use either one, since my gender expression is both. I began to wonder… “why does it matter?” & “can’t we all just have safe space to eliminate?”
At the TransForming Gender Conference at Colorado State University I was honored to use some of the first gender neutral bathrooms in the country! First of all they were the most comfortable bathrooms I have ever been in. There were individual stalls, some with urinals. There were sinks in the middle and it was so wide open I felt safer in that bathroom then I ever have! Not quite like home but for a public restroom I felt safe, so did my cisgendered bi sexual partner. Other genderqueer folks spoke of their mutual appreciation for these uniquely designed bathrooms.
After the experience I realized that gender less bathrooms are possible and even designed. So what’s the hold up to putting these bathrooms everywhere and transforming our old ones? What’s the issue? Why wouldn’t we want bathrooms that help everyone feel safe? Would we lose our identity? Is our gender identity crushed?
My questions continue to linger in the air like dirty laundry. If we love and appreciate all people, why wouldn’t we create a safe space for people to use bathrooms. Families could really benefit from this type of set up just as much as genderqueer people. Human’s could only gain from this evolution. Why are we struggling with this?
MORE TRANSGENDERED PEOPLE HAVE DIED IN BATHROOM RELATED INCIDENTS THAN CHILDREN BEING ATTACKED BY GLBTQ PEOPLE!!
Obviously logic is not at stake here so I am left with feeling without identity, without acknowledgment of my existence as a third gender, without a group… apparently I don’t belong, I don’t exist, and instead I often summon shame in the hearts of people that realize I am third gendered. In my brain all this lack of acknowledgement of the third gender interprets us as a “freak” a “weirdo” or at the very least “confused”. The more I explore, the more I ask questions and look around I must conclude that the third gender somehow got lost in the shuffle of an evolving human race. When you learn the history of third gendered people, its really hard to believe this is new. Not only do most ancient societies recognize their third gendered people but they often celebrate them. Drag and cross dressing has been around the American culture since it began. Male/female impersonation is not anything new.
Why does the idea of a third get swept under the carpet? ignored? minimized? and ridiculed?
My vote is for peace, simply peaceful bathrooms safe for all people. Fairness for all. Let’s practice loving each other regardless of our differences instead of drawing more lines of separation. Third Gendered Rights are important! We are done being ignored and swept under the carpet, we are not to be shamed!