I know this has been written about ad nauseam, but I hate binary bathrooms. It is so stressful to need to pee and have to make that choice. Do I go in the men’s room and risk potential physical violence and awkwardness, or do I go in the women’s restroom and risk verbal harassment and awkwardness?
Up until recently, I had been going with the men’s room as the safer choice. My experience of the men’s room is that men tend to keep their heads down and avoid eye contact and conversation. And especially when I had my beard, I didn’t feel like I could safely go in the women’s room without creating a ruckus.
But now that I’m starting to be read more consistently as a trans woman, I am feeling increasingly awkward about going into the men’s room. I’ve only been brave enough to go into the women’s room a few times so far though. I’m scared that my voice, which I haven’t trained to be feminine yet, will make people upset.
That is part of why I am planning on going to to all the government offices tomorrow and changing my gender marker on my ID. I will feel slightly more like I have a right to be there if I can prove with my ID that I belong. Which I know is ridiculous.
The problem is the worst at work where we have 2 gender neutral restrooms on my floor (the only ones on campus) but they have been increasingly full when I go to use them which is very frustrating. We don’t have that many trans people here so I know that it is mostly cis people using them because they like the privacy. And since I work at a company that is mostly women, I know that I’m much more likely to run into people in the women’s room than in the men’s room and I don’t know how people are likely to react to that, even in my department where most people have a working knowledge of trans people from a research perspective.
Last night I planned a community event and I purposefully chose Optimism Brewery because they are renowned for their gender neutral restroom design. They have a row of floor length stalls with urinals and toilets marked instead of genders in an open room layout. Ideally they would also have a separate family size restroom for people who have cultural requirements for more privacy but it is still better than 99% of the places around here. It was refreshing to not have to make that binary choice, especially after I had a couple drinks.
Gender neutral single stall restrooms are great but we aren’t going to be truly accessible as a society until we do away with binary restrooms altogether. Until then, I’ll continue being uncomfortable almost everywhere I go.
PS – Did you know that you can report where there are gender neutral restrooms and search them on a database through the Refuge app and website? You can even mark if you need to pay to use them and if they are accessible to wheelchairs. So please contribute to map so that people like me know where we can safely go.