What a time to be alive – in America eleven states are using residents’ tax dollars to not let trans people go to the toilet
I had no idea that when I decided to be eminently fashionable and resign from my previous post as a gay man in order to jump on the latest fashion trend and transition that this would involve me having to get so involved with the politics around toilets. When I was a gay, there wasn’t much need to discuss public toilets – they were places you’d go to do drugs or, if things got particularly wild, a fellow gay might tell me how he got cruised and gave an ebullient blowjob to a stranger in one. In the gay community, public toilets hold a rather charming, nostalgic place in the collective imagination – cottaging in the age of Grindr is a rather quaint nod to history, the equivalent of wearing a vintage 50s A-line dress. Picking up sex in public toilets is a bit like the paleo diet – a lifestyle choice but certainly not a major source of political discourse.
But, I’m a trans gal now. I grew my hair and popped some estrogen and, now, it seems toilets are a hugely contentious topic. I don’t even want to do drugs or have sex in them, I just want to be able to use them without being hassled. To be perfectly honest, I actually don’t care that much about using the women’s toilets as a symbolic gesture to affirm my gender – I know what my gender is. It’s just that, on balance, when you look like a woman the men’s toilets aren’t that fun and when you look like a transgender woman specifically a very functional part of being out anywhere becomes immediately fraught with anxiety about being abused or beaten up.
Believe me, even when I was living as a gay man I presented as a femme. I used men’s toilets back then – for example, I would regularly dive into a local Wetherspoons to change into my androgynous clothes and put on my make-up in stealth as a teenager. It was pretty horrible – I would get nervous if a large group of men suddenly came in. I got called a “queer” and a “faggot” a fair few times. Got told to “get the fuck out”. That sort of thing. I accepted it as a part of life because I hadn’t quite realised that, not being male, I didn’t have to use the men’s toilets if I didn’t want to. I’m now on hormones and soon will have tits – the idea that I would be expected to walk into the men’s toilets seems both ludicrous and terrifying. Trans women have been using women’s toilets for the past fifty years without much fuss so this seems perfectly reasonable, surely?
Well, apparently not in the U.S. The recent moral panic about trans people in bathrooms has swept several states with a series of anti-trans laws – the federal government has insisted these are themselves unlawful and, now, eleven states are suing the federal government in response. Yes, that’s right. Eleven states are using their residents’ tax dollars to fund a legal suit which fights for their right to not let trans people use the toilet. What a time to be alive.
“Not only is legislation trying to police restroom entry transphobic, it’s also deeply stupid and will only encourage those people who never lost the school prefect mentality to make crass and embarrassing errors when they try and enforce it”
Be under no illusions – these laws are cruel, perverse and their enforcement affects not just trans people but anyone who doesn’t meet any idiot’s standards for men or women. A month ago, activist Tamara McDaniel posted a video on Facebook which shows a cis, tomboy lesbian being removed from the women’s toilet on the suspicion she was trans. A cis woman named Aimee Toms, who is not trans, was told in a Walmart restroom “you’re disgusting” – again, assuming she was trans. The trouble is everyone thinks they know what “real” (cisgender) men and women look like but, often enough, these assessments will be wrong. Not only is legislation trying to police restroom entry transphobic, it’s also deeply stupid and will only encourage those people who never lost the school prefect mentality to make crass and embarrassing errors when they try and enforce it.
Much of the rhetoric claims it’s being done to protect cisgender women’s “privacy” and “safety”. Not only are there no instances of trans people assaulting people in public toilets, this premise instantly implodes. If a trans man is wearing a binder and takes testosterone he will have facial hair and a low voice. By the logic of America’s anti-trans laws, he should be confined to the women’s toilets. This means that any male-presenting person with a beard must be able to enter women’s toilets if he says he is trans – what are you going to do? Perform a genital inspection to ascertain if he was assigned female at birth?
Those trans people who don’t ‘pass’ (i.e. look like someone who is cisgender) will, frankly, be nervous in any toilet. My voice is an instant clue that I went through male puberty and so I tend to keep my mouth shut a lot of the time in places where I could be ‘clocked’. Whatever the law is, people of all genders can still be dicks to you in public places – so the idea that trans people are a demanding and entitled lobby is ludicrous beyond words. We still hate having to use demarcated toilets most of the time anyway – gender neutral facilities would be much better – we just make a judgment about the lowest risk.
And so here is my great political manifesto, my magnum opus, my rallying cry: let me use whatever bathroom I want in peace. Stop making me talk about toilets. A common charge is that “transgender” has become trendy among young people – the special snowflake complex of a generation. As if! If I wanted to be trendy I’d have stayed gay and got a statement tote bag. Instead, I gave it all up for toilet politics – if you want to talk fashionable glamour, I think I’ve just pissed all mine away.