Bathroom Questions & Answers

As an activist at my college, I’m presently doing a petition for trans rights. Amongst other things, we call for more gender-neutral bathrooms. Our basic plan looks something like this:

  1. Remove gender markers from single-stall bathrooms.
  2. Have some sort of 50/50 arrangement for the planned new campus, where half the bathroom sites would be two gendered bathrooms, and the other half, one gender-neutral bathroom for everyone.

We’re far from a bathroom revolution.

But along the way, I get all sorts of questions. I wanted to share this because 1) some of the questions I get are plain funny and 2) maybe it will stop the less funny ones from cropping up.

Yes, these are all actual questions I actually got from actual people. Many times, in fact,

In which bathroom do you go?

The boring answer is: “The women’s bathroom. I don’t have a problem myself.”

This is quite a personal questions. I also get other personal questions like this, about my genitals, my old name, the time since I started my transition/I knew I was trans, etc. I understand this one, in a way. I’m out there, doing trans stuff, so they probably guess I’m trans. And I’m telling them that some trans people don’t have anywhere to pee, so they might start thinking: “Well, she looks like a woman, but she has bathroom issues, because she’s trans, so where does she go?” So yeah, OK.

Also, I know some trans women who look no less like women than I and do have issues with bathrooms. So I’m fine with that, at least while I’m publicly presenting as an educator.

What is more dangerous is the follow up question :

Well, what’s the problem then?

Mainly, it’s all the others. I do this for my friends, in a way. I’m doing this for my friends who don’t pass so well and have been subject of assault, for my non-binary friends who don’t have a bathroom, for my pre-transition friends who feel bad whenever they have to go in the wrong bathroom. And for all these other people I don’t know who have the same issues as my friends.

And it’s also that my own safe-access-to-bathroom privilege card is revoked when I don’t wear makeup, as I developed this weird complex where not wearing makeup makes me feel insecure. It’s because I once was in my friends’ position, some time ago.

Similarly…

I know Bob, he’s trans, and he never told me he had any problem.

Great! What does this change for my aforementioned friends?

Another issue is the “told me”. What do you know about Bob’s life? Maybe his transition was a more difficult than now? Maybe he doesn’t talk about his daily toilet issues to people who can’t help in any way?

What you ask for will cost a fortune!

We ask for new signs on bathrooms, and for an innovative bathroom scheme for an unbuilt site. What’s so costly? If anything, building one larger bathroom instead of two smaller will be less expensive.

I understand that we live in a climate of austerity, but no need to wave that as a grave menace.

Also, some people do check if an institution has gender-neutral bathroom before applying there. Get one or two more trans students through this, and voilà! you’ve paid for all our projects.

How many of you are there?

No idea.

How many people use wheelchairs at my college? I have no idea, and you have no idea. No one has any idea, yet they still have accessible bathrooms built for them, as a matter of accessibility.

Gender-neutral bathrooms are a matter of accessibility for all my friends, not some act of whim.

Are gender-neutral bathrooms safe?

This generally means “Aren’t women gonna be RAPED if we don’t put them in separate bathrooms from men?” No, they won’t, not anymore than they are now.

First, if one is set on raping someone, putting a person-in-a-dress sign on the door won’t stop them. So that’s that.

Second, and most importantly, this argument reeks of rape culture and heterosexism. Why should men be incapable to control themselves? Even if they can’t, can’t gay men already rape other gay men in men’s bathrooms?

Third, where gender-neutral bathrooms already exist, they don’t attract rapists, only people who have natural needs to satisfy. There are few of these bathrooms, to be sure, but there are some. People use them without any problem.

And fourth, we don’t even advocate removing all gendered bathrooms. We just ask for more gender-neutral ones, mostly single-stall to start with.

So you want to build a third bathroom for trans people?

No, to the contrary.

A third bathroom for trans people would mark them as trans. It would stigmatize them as something “other” than male or female, whereas many of them are male or female. Finally, it would put a big “I’m trans” flashing sticker on their heads for the good of transphobic people, who may treat them differently afterwards, or attack them on the spot, or wait outside to harass those who go in and out, etc.

We want gender-neutral bathrooms where everyone would go. We don’t want one more bathroom, but one less.

Have some courage! Go in your right bathroom!

Apart from the obvious flaw that non-binary people , well… don’t have a “right” bathroom… Do cis people need “courage” to go pee? Not as far as I know. And yes, it does take courage for trans people to go to the bathroom — and courage won’t be enough to avoid transphobic harassment.

I don’t believe in that! [More transphobic stuff]

Just because you don’t believe in our experiences doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to pee. It’s a question of accessibility, not belief. (No, I never convinced people who “don’t believe” that being trans was a thing to sign our petition. But I try, at least. Once, I sparked a debate between two friends this way. Yay!)

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