The Bathroom Dilemma

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.

Not a man

How do I know I’m nonbinary? Well the truth is I don’t. All I know for sure is that I’m not a man. I tried to fit that role for 26 years and I have plenty of experience to show me that it didn’t work for me. I tried being a masculine man, I tried being a gender non-conforming man, I tried being a sensitive man, I tried being an emotionless man. And it just doesn’t fit. So am I a woman or am I nonbinary? I don’t really know but what I do know is that binary gender expectations and the idea of “opposite sexes” harms all of us regardless of how we identify so I’m perfectly content to fight for nonbinary representation even if that’s not where I end up someday.

If you’re trying to figure out if you’re nonbinary, I recommend starting with Sam Dylan Finch’s articles on Everyday Feminism like¬†Help! I Think I Might Be Non-Binary, But How Can I Know?¬†

A Trans Woman in a Nonbinary Body

A year ago today I wrote a difficult post asking myself “am I really nonbinary?” This week I find myself asking similar questions as I’m preparing to start hormonal transition. And I think the conclusion that I’ve come to, at least for now, is that I’m essentially a trans woman in a nonbinary body.

I have felt for a very long time that there was a mix up in the womb and my brain went one way while my body went another. I should have been born a woman or at least I would have liked to figure out I was trans when I was young while there was still a chance of doing delayed puberty. But since I didn’t, I have a body that has gone through changes, some of which are irreversible. No amount of surgery is going to reduce my 6-foot-2 frame or make my hands or feet smaller. I could go through the whole process of vaginoplasty, facial feminization, hair removal, and tracheal shaves but for me it doesn’t feel worth it. Nothing I do will ever allow me to pass, and at this point I’m not sure that trying is going to accomplish anything.

I’ve learned to accept and even love a lot of things about the body I’m in. My beard has become a part of my identity and while I might hate my testicles, I’m pretty ok with my penis at this point. So instead of trying to reverse the last 30 years, my current strategy is to change the little things that make a difference like the amount of leg and chest hair, the size of my breasts, and my gender presentation through clothing. I’ve created my own mix of characteristics that reflect not only who I think I should have been but how the years have shaped me.

My strategy certainly wouldn’t work for everyone and I am not trying to criticize binary trans women in any way. But for me I suspect my dysphoria would be worse if I was close to passing as a woman but unable to gain that last 10%. Who knows how I’ll feel in 5 years or even after estrogen begins shaping my brain. But for now, my plan is to take hormones and if my brain responds well, to have an orchiectomy to remove my testes so I don’t have to take androgen blockers forever.

Gender is complicated and so are the ways in which we choose to cope. There’s no easy way to describe my gender but hopefully this gives you a little more insight into one path.