This is mostly in response to a discussion I took part in last week about Barney Frank’s endless obsession with what happens when trans folks have to use public restrooms, but he’s not the only one who likes to make a fuss about this.
Since a lot of cis folks seem to have a hard time with this issue, I’ll break it down. Here’s what I do in public restrooms:
- excrete liquids from my body
- excrete solids from my body
- wash my hands
- make sure my hair looks ok
Do you know what I don’t do, oddly enough? I don’t wave around the parts that might be different from other people using the restroom with me, and I’m pretty sure every other trans person is in the same boat. Most of this bathroom panic is focused on trans women who haven’t had genital surgery (surprise!), but my understanding is that most trans women are too busy using the facilities and trying not to be harassed to take the time to expose themselves to anyone.
So here’s my Bathroom Challenge: I would love to see everyone who tries to spread Trans Bathroom Panic, thinks it’s reasonable to do genital checks before any trans folks can use their preferred restroom, or wants to support anti-discrimination bills for trans folks only if they ignore restroom/locker room protections to commit, for one year, to only use the restroom at their own home or in single-stall unisex public bathrooms. No cheating! If you have to cut off a date/shopping trip/volunteer shift early because you can’t find a safe public restroom facility, that’s just how it is.
Helpful tips: unless you spend a lot of time at home, you should probably err on the side of staying slightly dehydrated so you don’t get caught out in public needing to pee but being unable to find a safe bathroom (for extra realism you could start taking a diuretic; a commonly used androgen blocker acts as one). Many bars and concert venues have restrooms that don’t even have stalls or doors (I’ve encountered both), so if you like to go out a lot that’s something to keep in mind. If you’re employed, your job may not have safe bathrooms, so that could make your workweek much less comfortable.
It might even help to start scoping out your favorite hangouts so you’ll know which stores/cafes/restaurants have bathrooms you can use during the challenge. City-dwellers, you’ll have more businesses to choose from, but you’ll be less likely to find places that will let you use the facilities without being a paying customer, so carry cash at all times.
Stick to that plan for a year and then come and tell me it’s not important. Alternately, anyone who chooses not to do this can spend that year keeping an eye out for trans folks terrorizing public restrooms and report back. If I ever hear more than zero reports of this happening, I’ll be amazed.