We'll Never Be Able to Pee in Peace. Thanks Trump
"Trump Appears Set to Reverse Protections for Transgender Students" the New York Times warns, specifically legislation put in place to allow school kids to pee in the bathroom that meets their gender identities. Hours later, he did just that claiming the legal argument for the protections needed more study (and of course, states rights to discriminate against whoever they want).
Why is it about the fucking bathrooms, again and always? It's sort of funny. Almost. The fact that we're fighting over the right to pee in peace.
I mean it was funny in Hidden Figures, right? Cue a catchy Pharrell Williams tune and a half-mile high heel race in wind, sun, sleet, rain, everything except snow.
Sure, it was funny like the long setup for a dark joke. Funny because bathrooms were desegregated "so long ago" and segregation is something we've put into context in high school history not something we acknowledge as ever present. Funny because in the end the sign comes down and we can all feel good about civil rights for a couple hours in a movie theater, no matter how many people of color are getting abused, detained, deported, arrested, or rounded up by ICE.
Except we're still policing who uses what bathrooms. This time instead of skin color it's straight people's panic when queer bodies look different from their narrow gendered conceptions of who should be in the men's room or the women's room and the myth of the transgender predator, trans as danger to cis.
Meanwhile our physical and emotional safety, and our mental health and our physical wellbeing, are placed on a very thin line of passing when we must pee or paying the price by getting arrested, beaten, humiliated or forcibly removed.
In 2013, 70 percent of trans people reported experiencing harassment when trying to use the bathroom.
I used to use the guy's room sometimes. In rest stops when the women's line was long and no one was in the men's room, sometimes when another woman was "guarding" the door and sometimes not. Back then I had a bob and wore skirts and fishnets. I wasn't conventionally feminine but you wouldn't mistake me for anything but female.
I held my breath and closed the stall door and tried to go quickly, not wanting some dude to come in and use the urinal while I was stuck in a stall. It wasn't worth the discomfort to skip the line, especially once I cut my hair short and started dressing androgynously.
But that didn't make the women's room a safe bet either. I generally am read as female, albeit a short-haired androgynous queer that some women need to look twice at, just to reassure themselves I'm not in the wrong place. I keep my head down in the restroom and avoid meeting eyes, or else make small talk. My voice rises at the end of every sentence in a question that gives the answer. I'm female. You don't need to fear me.
But that didn't stop an airport worker from panicking as I approached the women's room after a long flight. Her voice trembled and rose, and her hands flew through the air as she all but threw herself between me and the ladies' room door. "I'm a woman!" I yelled out, blowing past her.
And that didn't stop me from experiencing significant anxiety when a recent vacation took me through HB 2 county - North Carolina, where the law legislated using the bathroom that matched my gender assigned at birth. Never mind how I identified or what restroom I normally used. After seeing a viral video of a lesbian getting pulled from a public bathroom by police, I feared what could happen if someone in North Carolina misgendered me - or simply feared what I represented as a queer body in a public space.
As I wrote in "We Are North Carolina Now," which appeared in The Manifest Station,
"When I came out at 18, it was the era of civil unions and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I lived with fear over my safety on a daily basis. Back then, I assumed that getting gay-bashed for dating women was just a matter of wrong place and wrong time that would inevitably happen to me.
As the attitudes toward the LGBTQ community changed and my home state of Massachusetts granted gay marriage rights, my fears dissolved. I stopped assuming I’d be the victim of a hate crime. I started thinking it was safe to be myself."
Until the bathroom bills, and the hatred and xenophobia unleashed by Trump's "victory" and the hateful actions of the Trump administration toward Muslims, Jews, immigrants, refugees, people of color, and now trans people. Now I know full well the illusion of safety.
We want to pee in peace. We want to use the bathroom quickly and get on with our days and lives. We don't want to walk miles to find a friendly bathroom, alter our gender expression to fit norms and avoid ruffling feathers in the restroom line, get challenged when trying to use the restroom, or get attacked when doing so.
We aren't men trying anything to infiltrate the ladies' room to watch women preen and wash their hands.
And they know that. I know they know that. But they don't want us to feel safe.