Though this may be a shocking and potentially obscene revelation, it cannot remain hidden any longer. I use the bathroom: in public.
In point of fact, I use it more than the average person: I like to stay well hydrated, my bladder’s smaller than most people’s, and I take a medication that increases the amount I have to urinate drastically.
That, however, is part of the reason that me going to the bathroom in public might cause some shock and dismay: That diuretic is spironolactone, an androgen blocker, used by transgender women who are medically transitioning. In short, it forces me to pee out the testosterone currently produced by my body, and helps my other sex hormones to feminize my body.
Which means, of course, I pee while transgender — an unforgivable offense in North Carolina and Mississippi, which have recently passed so-called bathroom bills, requiring that citizens must use the restroom that corresponds to their “biological sex.”
Which means that, were I in their state, I would break the law every time I want to use the bathroom, fix my hair, or wash my hands in public.
Being a stolidly law-abiding citizen, of course, I would then be forced to not use the restroom. After all, the “biologically XY, non-intersexed genitalia, penis-haver” bathroom (previously called the men’s room) might not take well to me fixing up makeup or freshening up my perfume, to say nothing of adjusting my bra and breasts. I’m not sure where I’d go, after all; I’m hormonally female, legally male, and chromosomally undetermined. I’ve never been karyotyped, after all, and I’m like most people in that respect.
Perhaps a nearby sink, or a local legislator’s office, would have to suffice. I don’t plan to vacation to either of these places any time soon, in any case.
While the UW, Seattle, and the state of Washington all have nondiscrimination protections in place for trans people, it can still be a problem. This is partially linked to the idea of passing, that is, appearing to be cisgender, to observers. Frankly, I don’t pass: I’m 6-foot-3, I have a deep voice, and my usual outfit is a T-shirt and jeans. Generally, I don’t have any problems, but I’ve been shooed out of bathrooms at the UW several times, both the men’s and women’s. Apparently, I don’t pass as either of those genders. It’s not really a consolation when I have to pee, though.
There has been a lot of negative press about the bathroom bills enacted, and even more about a proposed ballot measure that would bring the same negative response to our own state. Unfortunately, much of the allyship shown to trans people has been focusing on trans people who are in the binary (e.g., self-identify as either a man or a woman) and those who pass as one of those two genders.
If you’ve seen any press against bathroom bills, think back to the pictures that accompany most of them. You’ll see either a handsome, bearded, and white trans man looking uncomfortable in the woman’s room mirror, or a cute, well-groomed, and white trans woman standing confused next to the urinals. And while it’s great that there are people who do pass, and who look damn good while doing so, that’s not everyone. There are trans people who aren’t white, trans people who can’t afford the clothes, makeup, or medical surgeries to pass easily, and frankly people who don’t feel too strongly that they must pass at all costs. I count myself in the second and third groups, in fact.
Binary identities aren’t the only ones who fall under the trans umbrella, and nonbinary trans people might not pass as either men or women. There’s nothing at all wrong about nonbinary identities, and such people are just as transgender as binary folks, and their genders (or lack thereof) are perfectly valid. This means that only a portion of the trans population are being shown or discussed, which doesn’t sit well, after all, LGBTQIA+ groups have historically kept the -TQIA populations in the background. Personally, I’d rather not repeat that same mistake.
In the end, I think it all comes down to one simple question: Do you support a person’s right to chose? I’m not talking about abortion or birth control, I’m asking about something far more fundamental. Gender is a big f---ing deal to almost everyone right now, and it’s trendy to come out in support of those who choose, or had chosen, to change the gender that they were forced into at birth. But if that’s a conditional support, given only to those who pass some asinine standard of beauty and gender conformity, I’d rather go without it. Because gender is hard, complex, and all too often, imposed on other people, deliberately or otherwise.
Supporting good looking trans people who, if they were not in an ad or a news article, you would not know were trans, doesn’t make you a hero. It doesn’t make you progressive. It doesn’t make you a good person. Not unless you support the ugly trans chicks, with acne and wide shoulders, and the trans man that doesn’t have a luxurious beard and cowboy hat, and the nonbinary person who doesn’t want to answer personal questions related to their choice of gendered bathrooms. If you want to be an ally, wear the trans flag, and feel like you’re helping; it’s all in, or nothing. There’s no room for half-measures, and no need, either.
Reach columnist Alice T. Crowe at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @alicexcrowe