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public bathrooms: double-takes in only having two doors to choose from

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Image: Wikimedia Commons

In high school, one of my best friends loved to wear skirts. His favorite one was grey; it danced two inches above his knees and matched the Sharpie marker that colored in his shoes. This is the same skirt that matched his eyeliner. Though he is a male that likes to shop for prom dresses, though he is a male that walks in heels with more confidence than I ever will, he is a male that identifies as male. He loves his male body and other male bodies. What a concept–someone that can play in between what we so often have to choose between. This play becomes a threat to the binary of male and female, and has led to threats such as, “you’re in the wrong bathroom, faggot,” and sometimes physical violence.

According to studies with the Transgender Law Center, trans and gender non-conforming peoples are significantly more likely to develop serious health problems related to kidneys and digestion because this problem of having to choose happens every day. Avoiding the bathrooms, and ultimately avoiding violence from outsiders who grant themselves the authority to choose the structure of someone else’s gender identity, forces my friend and others to do violence against their own bodies.

The continued lack of support for gender neutral bathrooms and locker rooms reminds me of the trans-phobia that continues as gay marriage becomes the most important and talked about topic within the “gay agenda.” This conservative stance that marks individuals as a bride or groom certainly seems important to many. However, these markers of progress seem relative while mainstream society still neglects the right to pee for those who rarely have the privilege of passing as a bride or groom.

Four years since high school, I went to the same friend’s drag performance. Never had a little white box with blue luminescent lights and slimy walls in Detroit felt so welcoming. It was a space in which my choice to use the women’s room, his choice to use the men’s room, and other kings and queens who made the choice to go into the unisex bathroom or the women’s room or the men’s room or outside or wherever was a part of themselves they celebrate. Going to the bathroom no longer labeled my friend as a “faggot,” but as a person with a body that takes and gives and digests everything.


2 thoughts on “public bathrooms: double-takes in only having two doors to choose from

  1. Thank you for this article. Again, we are forced to think about things outside of our tiny boxes.

    One of my daughters is gay. That was hard enough for me to accept. Okay, accepted. I love my kid.

    Now, this is another challenge to my traditional thinking. If you love humanity, you love humanity. Accept everyone. PERIOD. OMG! What if there is no right or wrong? Then we are wrong in judging anyone in anything. God help me if anyone begins to list my stuff…. It’s a long list. (Just ask my daughter……)

  2. If you’re at a place where someone’s likely to attack you in the bathroom for being a guy wearing a dress, or whatever, then the problem’s not likely to be confined to the bathroom. Arguing that public places should have a third more bathrooms seems to be arguing for a very troublesome and expensive way of providing a solution that won’t actually solve anything.

    And given that gender labels now extend way beyond the male/female binary – to the extent that cumbersome acronyms such as LGBTTTQ are now bandied about – who’s to say that in a few years time we won’t see a call for, say, 10 types of specialised toilets in public places?

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