Time for a Potty Break

It happens to me time and time again…

I’m out in public, at the mall, at a social event, buying groceries…when it happens.

I have to pee. (Cue dramatic music)

I feel the panic rising in my chest as I determine the level of urgency of my body. And then I barter with myself…

b4b20fe235d8dc82955bfc3263a73724How bad is it, really? Can you hold it until you get home? Is there a single stall bathroom nearby? How busy are the bathrooms? Maybe you should just hold it until you get home. You really don’t have that much longer to go…

I’ve cut shopping trips short…I’ve held it in far longer than what’s healthy…I’ve fought anxiety…all over using the public restroom.

I’ve written about this before. But with all of the bills that are being introduced around the country, I feel like it needs to be brought up again. Because now things are different.

A bounty has been placed on the heads of transgender individuals around the country. A monetary value has been given to each member of the trans community.

$2,500. These bills aren’t new. Kansas is just the latest state to propose such a bill.122z2v

$2,500 for every trans person caught ‘using the wrong bathroom’. Students being tempted to turn in classmates to earn that $2,500. I can see it now.

“Sally, you have only 3 more transgenders to catch before you’ve earned enough money to pay for college. Danny, you’ve only caught 2 transgenders. You’re going to have to step it up if you want that new car you’ve been eyeing…”

It’s entirely hypocritical. Many of these same people are against any kind of gun law – saying that by putting laws into place only hurt those law abiding citizens; that criminals will still have their guns. Yet somehow, putting a law in place banning trans people from using the appropriate public restroom will prevent men from entering the women’s room and sexually assaulting them.

The reaction to these RFRA and bathroom bills have been intense, as expected. There’s been a movement of trans men and women who “pass”, taking their pictures inside the restrooms they’ll be forced to use based on ‘chromosome’ and ‘biological’ gender. And I get it…these bills are absurd, claiming that allowing trans individuals to use the bathroom they should be using (i.e. the one that they see fit to use) will somehow open the door to men sexually assaulting women in restrooms.

#wejustneedtopee is all over Twitter. And I was all for these movements…I got excited and wanted to respond in kind (even though I don’t see myself as all that masculine most days). At least at first.

trans-restroomI understood #wejustneedtopee. After all, how do you fight the absurd idea that “allowing” me to use the men’s room would somehow result in men raping women in public restrooms? You fight it with more absurdity. Show pictures of bearded, burly trans men in women’s restrooms and curvy, busty trans women in men’s rooms, right?

I was wrong. While these are indeed pictures of the absurdity these laws are implying, they’re leaving out some important groups of people. It’s not people like Buck Angel or Adain Dowling or Laverne Cox who need to worry. The trans men and trans women who “pass” – they won’t be questioned when it comes to using the restroom. Those who are non-binary or gender non-conforming or who don’t “pass” are the ones these bills target.

It’s clear the bathroom bills are poorly disguised attempts at targeted discrimination towards the trans community – specifically towards trans women. Non-binary and non-conforming individuals are caught in this too. The fear-mongering by Republicans has the potential to incite violence against the trans community, and if you don’t present as a masculine male or as a feminine female, then you’d better take a self-defense course.

And the politicians are using a very real, valid issue to gain support for these bills – rape.

These same political asshats are the ones who want to defund Planned Parenthood. They’re the same fools who claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” They’re the same douchebags who blame the victims of sexual assault and rape because they must have done something to provoke or confuse or entice the attacker.

Don’t be fooled. The states that have ‘bathroom of choice’ have reported a zero increase in sexual assaults and rapes in public restrooms. That’s right – all of this fear is completely unfounded. Surprise! In fact, during the first 6 months of 2015, more transgender individuals (overwhelmingly trans women of color) were murdered than in the entire year of 2014.States-transgender-law-2

I dare say cisgender women have very little to fear in public restrooms.

Yes, #wejustneedtopee – all of us. #IllGoWithYou is a start. I know we’ll see many more lawsuits than the one challenging North Carolina’s newly signed law. But in the meantime, don’t cater to the gender stereotypes by taking pictures of yourself in the restroom. It ignores the real issue at hand – the targeting of trans women and non-binary individuals. Instead, use the passing privilege you have to help cisgender folk understand that we all need to pee, and that’s exactly what we plan on doing when we walk into a public restroom.

To me, this is the only debate that needs to take place in regards to bathrooms…

TP-over-under

***A couple of footnotes…

First, I dislike using the term “passing” because it serves to reinforce gender stereotypes. I myself am a binary trans man, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is binary, nor should they be forced to conform to a binary. I use the term “passing” in this blog post because it best fits for the scenario – those supporting this discrimination against the trans community are using these ideas of an oversimplified idea of what it means to be male or female, and in the eyes of society at large, at least in regards to these bills, the binary is what this is all based on. (for those of you unclear to the term – ‘passing’ refers to a transgender individual’s appearance and ability to ‘blend in’ as a cisgender male or female)

Second, when I say the ‘transgender community’ I’m including non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals simply for brevity. My intent is not to erase the existence of non-binary and non-conforming individuals.

Taking on The Patriarchy as a Trans Man

So it’s been decided – at least in Houston.

The trans community is nothing more than men in dresses with uncontrolled sexual urges who are compelled to attack women in public restrooms. At least in Houston.

Fear mongering has always been a tactic of those who have nothing left to fight with. So it should have been expected. And I suspect that before our side could react, the fear had stretched so far and wide that it  became its own entity.

But this entity attacked trans women only. Ads saying that somehow, this would lead to an increase in sexual assaults in public restrooms. Ads saying things as ‘facts’ with no factual evidence or basis to go on. Ads attacking trans women by degrading, demeaning, and stirring up hate.

Do these people know how many trans women have been murdered this year in the US alone? At least 22. Murdered by heterosexual men who were ‘surprised’ and attempted to use a ‘gay panic defense’ because they were, are, nothing more than cowards. Do these people understand that if a man is going to sexually assault a woman, he doesn’t need to put on a dress to do so? That he can walk right into the restroom and rape her, and no law or ordinance will either stop him or protect him?

And why? Because of the patriarchy. Men have ruled for centuries – they use their male privilege to further their own interests at the expense of women and don’t give a passing thought to it. How else do you explain the incessant need for men to control a woman’s reproductive rights?

But where’s the fear and hate-mongering towards the trans men? All of these ads attacking the transgender community are geared towards creating hate against trans women. Because who in their right mind would openly give up their male privilege? Why would someone want to be a woman? They’re weak, feeble-minded, and good for sexual pleasure and ego-stroking, right? That’s it, right?

These people think laws keeping trans people out of their respective restrooms are going to keep rapists out of women’s rooms, but fight against gun control laws because criminals don’t abide by the law.

Those who think that men in dresses will descend upon women’s restrooms are the same people who think that a woman is incapable of making decisions over her own body. This is something I’ve mentioned before – these people who are trying to defund Planned Parenthood are trying to regulate women’s bodies, and by no stretch of the imagination, they’re attempting to regulate everyone else too.

These are the same people who think gender is purely biological and if you’re a man then you were born with a penis and if you’re a woman you were born with a vagina and there’s no in-between. They think they get to make that defining choice for us.

So I’ll bring it up again. If these men think they can tell trans people which restrooms they’re supposed to use, and tell women what to do with their bodies, then it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’ll attempt to pass legislation making hysterectomies illegal because that would be killing any prospective children one might have.

Do you think this doesn’t affect you? Do you think that your newly acquired male privilege will keep you safe? Let’s do a ‘what if’ – What if the same Republicans who are trying (and in some cases, succeeding) to defund Planned Parenthood go after other procedures that render a woman unable to reproduce? After all, when it comes down to it, a lot of men believe a woman’s purpose is to make babies and sammiches. What if one of those procedures is like I said above, to outlaw hysterectomies like they’re trying to outlaw abortion? Where does that leave us? Because remember, according to them, men are born with penises and women with vaginas, and there’s no way in their eyes, to change that.

So why the hell aren’t trans men furious over this? Because it’s easier to stay silent? Because it’s easier to quietly accept your male privilege while keeping your mouth shut and your head down? In all the forums I’m in on Facebook, none of them talk about this. None of them talk about taking the patriarchy down from the inside. Hell, none of them talk about male privilege or the patriarchy at all. None of them mention the atrocities faced by women on a daily basis, despite the fact that I’m sure at least some of them have suffered at the hands of male privilege prior to transitioning.

I’m not without culpability. I’ve sat quietly, making comments from my comfy sofa at home, while Mira makes dinner and breakfast and makes sure I’m comfortable and taken care of. I’ve failed to acknowledge all she’s done for me, and I’m truly sorry for that. But saying I’m sorry is half of an apology. Showing I’m sorry is something I’m working on, because I’ve never had anyone hold me accountable before.

It’s time to make the patriarchy implode. And if my fellow trans men don’t have the heart to take down the same group of men that essentially gave them their male privilege by perpetuating it, well, I ask you to get the hell out of the way. It’s time we realize our role in this.

I know what I have to do at home, to do my part as a feminist. Because it doesn’t stop at my front door. I’m reaching out to organizations that help women, all women, to see how I can help. And I’m going to keep making internet comments and blog posts to spread the word and spread awareness of the insidiousness that is the patriarchy. I’m going to fight for the equity of all women, because it’s the only thing to do.

This isn’t new. I’ve talked about this before. I talked about how Planned Parenthood offers services necessary to all people, not just women. But not one trans guy commented or offered their support or asked what they could do to help. And that disappoints me. I know we have struggles. Trans men aren’t exempt from discrimination and harassment. But that’s all the more reason to join the fight and get active. To say you support and to actually support are two completely different things. You want the community to support you and recognize your struggles. You turn to others for help with GoFundMe accounts for surgery. Yet when there’s a call to action on the other end, how many of you stayed silent? How many of you joined the rallies for feminism? How many of you

To the trans men of my hometown – where were you during the Feminist Film Festival? I was there. I didn’t see you. Did you know they gave a shout out to the trans community? Did you know they had a couple of films that addressed trans issues? Specifically those of trans men? No. Because you weren’t there. You weren’t there to support your sisters – trans and cis – in their fight against the patriarchy. You weren’t there to see them recognize us, and support us in our struggles to exist.

Stop hiding. Stop taking the back alley to freedom. Our ancestors didn’t have that option. The least we can do is acknowledge their struggle by acknowledging their fight. Look beyond the reach of your own hand.

You can be an accomplice, an oppressor, an activist or an ally. There’s only two choices that are acceptable. And in some situations, there’s only one choice.

Make sure you make the right one.

Not All of Us

We’re erasing each other.

“Yeah, but not all men are rapists.”

“Not all white people are racist.”

“Not all Christians hate gays.”

It’s become so important for us to distance ourselves from those groups who these statements are about that we’re missing the point. Of course not all men are rapists. I’m a transguy, and I’m not a rapist, but I also don’t need to tell people that.

“Hi, I’m Teri. I like cats, I like to write…oh, and I’m not a rapist.” No, that’s stupid. If you have to state that you are the exception to the rule, and not the standard, something is terribly wrong.

There’s been a movement, where Christians show up at gay pride festivals across the country and apologize for the pain and suffering inflicted by the religion. They hug LGBT people and say “I’m Sorry” and wear t-shirts with the phrase emblazoned on the front. There’s other movements too, where white people have shown up to protest alongside blacks in their neighborhoods, protesting police brutality.

It’s not enough. Saying you’re a good Christian, and you’re sorry doesn’t do anything for me. Why? Because it doesn’t close the gap between the two communities. You’re sorry on behalf of those who wish to take away my rights, and in some instances, wish me dead. They’re not sorry. They most likely never will be sorry. So unfortunately, your apology, as well intentioned as it may be, is empty. At least to me. If five people at a pride event say they’re sorry, then I go home and there’s 20 people talking about how it’s the LGBT community’s fault that Nebraska had an earthquake, or a reporter is telling the story of a trans life taken much too soon…it just simply isn’t enough.

We talk of privilege. Privilege of skin, privilege of money, of education, of sexual orientation and gender identity. But what do we do with it? I’m sure there are black people who appreciate the white people standing beside them in solidarity, but that doesn’t stop black youth from dying.

A Christian telling me they’re sorry doesn’t change the fear I have using a public restroom or keep me from being fired because I’m trans.

So you’re sorry. That’s great. But don’t come to me to assuage your guilt for being Christian. Don’t tell a woman who has been raped that not all men are rapists, because clearly it doesn’t do her a damn bit of good. If you want to help, if you truly want to make a difference, get out there and change things. Engage in conversations with other Christians, tell them you know gay people, that you know transgender people, and surprise! We’re not bad or evil. Use your white privilege to change people’s attitudes. Call others out when they’re racist. Go to community meetings and stand up and tell people that police brutality is not only unacceptable, but that it needs to stop and things MUST change. When other men are being misogynist, call them out. Let them know that it’s not right.

Be that change. Don’t hug me and tell me that you’re sorry. I appreciate it, but it doesn’t help me move forward towards equality.

Yes, all lives matter, and yes, not all of us are [pick your poison]. But stop erasing the struggle because you need to clear your conscience. I know you’re a good person, but simply being a good person doesn’t create the change that’s needed to make this place safe for all of us. Stop telling me you’re a good Christian and go find out why the bad Christians feel the way they do about us.

Stop being the exception. Become the standard.

I need to get something off my chest…

Breasts. Boobs. Jugs. Melons.

Whatever you want to call them, I have them. I don’t want them. I’d much rather say ta-ta to my ta-tas than save them.

It’s not often I have dysphoria about my gender. But when it happens, holy cow, does it suck.

Mira and I went out to the theatre as we often do, to see a play put on by one of our local acting troupes. My week had been good, albeit busy, but good. I was interviewed, with Mira, and was on TV. I wore my binder and got to dress up at work (we had clients visit) and I’d been more than content with my appearance, including my profile. But, by Friday, I think my binder was as sick of my body as my body was of my binder.

We arrived at the theatre and when I sat down in my seat, it happened. My binder shifted.

This is a godsend for those of us trans men who are pre-surgery
This is a godsend for those of us trans men who are pre-surgery

Upward. Not rolled, not moved slightly, but shifted upwards. I felt uncomfortable, but shrugged it off. Mira asked if I needed to use the bathroom, but everyone had sat down in the seats next to us, and I didn’t want to be that guy who makes everyone move in their row so he can get in and out for no good reason.

The play started, and when the lights dimmed, I tugged and shifted, hoping to move it back into place, all the while trying to convince myself it was no big deal. I got into the play, and was greatly enjoying myself. Intermission came, and Mira went to talk to a friend. I took the opportunity to go use the restroom so I could fix my binder.

genderx390_10I stood up from my seat (after arguing with myself about going), and made it out of the main theatre into the lobby, down the ramp, and about twenty steps away from the restrooms. Then I froze. Which bathroom should I use? I thought I looked like a guy. I mean, I did, didn’t I? But there would only be like one stall, and what if someone was in there? I’d look kind of odd standing around waiting for the stall, right? But I’d get weird looks if I went into the women’s room, right? I looked more like a guy than a butch lesbian, right? I could feel the panic quickly rising, ironically, in my chest. In fact, I looked down at my chest, and was absolutely convinced the binder was doing nothing for me at this point.

I felt my face flushing with embarrassment and shame. I quickly walked back into the theatre and sat down, trying desperately to keep myself together. Mira sat down and quickly saw my discontent and asked what was wrong. I felt myself getting very angry. Not with her, but with myself. I tried brushing it off and saying I had an issue going to the bathroom, but I was okay.

I wasn’t. She asked me to talk to her about it in the car on the way home, which I agreed to.

I told her about the shame I felt, and the embarrassment, and how I wanted my breasts gone. I told her about struggling to figure out what bathroom I should use. We both agreed that the group of people who go to see this group perform wouldn’t care which restroom I used, and certainly wouldn’t accost me, but I still struggled. And I cried. I was ashamed of myself for not having the strength or confidence to walk into the men’s room with my head held high. I was embarrassed by my appearance, convinced my chest was showing. And then I was ashamed for being embarrassed…and it spiraled for a bit.

We went to the store to pick up some late night junk food to help me feel better. Mira asked me if I wanted to wait in the car. I told her no. Because it’s important to me to be able to move through my days as I am in the moment, and be okay with that. Things won’t be changing physically for me anytime soon, so I need to be able to cope, and going into the grocery store is part of that.

struggle1
It’s hard to keep moving forward sometimes, knowing parts of you are trapped within other parts.

I struggle at work, knowing which restroom to use. It may seem ridiculous to some of you reading this. You’ve always known which bathroom to use. It’s not that easy for me. I mean, I know I’m a trans man. I’m a guy, I should use the men’s room. But my confidence level isn’t always that high. Especially when it comes to my chest. I don’t have large boobs, but they’re big enough to be noticed. And that’s difficult to deal with, when you know your body is supposed to look different, but there’s nothing you can do about it, at least not right now.

I’ve struggled with my weight, and the only thing I can liken my struggle with restrooms with is buying clothes – when a medium has always fit you, and now, suddenly, it doesn’t, or when you find a shirt you really like, but it’s not in your size, nor are any of the clothes you like – your confidence and self-esteem takes a very heavy hit. It’s like that with bathrooms. But more visceral. It’s a reminder that I’m not the man I want to be yet. That while my head says one thing, my body is clearly saying something different.

I understand some of the issue is created in my own mind. My breasts weren’t that noticeable, nor would it really have mattered which bathroom I used, no one would have really cared. But this struggle is real, regardless of whether what I feel is created in my own mind or actually happens.

Mira and I went out today, to buy some dresses for some upcoming events. One of the places we went to, the staff was incredibly helpful, and very kind, but she made the assumption that I was a ‘lady’, and when I made mention that I would be attending some of these events as well, tried to hook me up with a dress, and then with a ‘really nice pantsuit’. She clearly didn’t understand me by appearance. It made me a bit uncomfortable, but I’ve gotten use to shrugging it off.

bb0f129749de709cae657fe57aaef2efThere are times when I look in the mirror, and it doesn’t bother me. There are other times I look in the mirror, and I picture myself with a flat chest, and it makes me happy. And yet there are other times when I look in the mirror and it hurts, knowing I have these physical barriers which aren’t changing fast enough for me. I wish the bathroom thing wasn’t a big deal. It really shouldn’t be. I mean, I just want to go to the bathroom. I don’t want to be hassled any more than I want to hassle anyone else.

And some day, that won’t even be an issue for me anymore. Mentally, I’m quickly becoming the man I want to be, the man I’m proud to be. Physically, that will follow too. In the meantime, I’m learning how to deal. I’ll continue to struggle, here and there. Some days it will be my chest, some days it will be my voice. Sometimes I’ll wonder if I’m ever going to be happy with my appearance. Some days will be filled with doubt, and some days will be empty of confidence. People have talked about having a bad gender day. I’ll have my share of those.

But the path to who I am isn’t supposed to be easy. If it were, would it be worth it? I’ll have my days of gender dysphoria – days when I don’t want to leave the house because I’m exasperated by my genes. I will though, because it’s all a part of becoming me. My struggles shape my successes.

And I plan on being successful in my life.

(Aiutami is Italian for Help Me, and the song, Aiutami is in the play we saw that night, The Light in the Piazza. It’s sometimes how I feel…)

 

Onions, lesbians, and layers.

Lesbians are like onions. Some really stink and others make you cry.

Okay, that’s not where I was going with that pearl of wisdom, but it at least caught your attention. It’s true though. Lesbians have layers.

There are some that seem to think my lesbian life consists of this:

Because, of course, this is what all lesbians look like
Because, of course, this is what all lesbians look like

And there’s others that think it looks something like:

Let's get one thing...ah...erm..*straight*...I'm not the super sporty type.
Let’s get one thing…ah…erm..*straight*…I’m not the super sporty type.

And still others think this:

Even if I did this, I'd be more likely to wear a pantsuit. I just look goofy in a dress.
Even if I did this, I’d be more likely to wear a pantsuit. I just look goofy in a dress.

But what is truly interesting is those who think that we partake in these varying events also want us to keep all of this in our bedrooms, where it belongs. Because obviously softball should be played in the bed. (Keep the euphemism to yourself…)

Every lesbian has heard of the butch-femme continuum. I’ve mentioned it before on this blog. It’s this scale that lists the varying gender identities among lesbians. It’s similar to the Kinsey scale in the varying extremes of how lesbians present themselves. It’s essentially a persona.

And because it’s a persona, it’s a bit harder to ‘keep it in the bedroom.’ I identify as a butch lesbian (that’s about as far as I get in the specifics of the continuum) and wear guy’s clothes, keep my hair short, and just generally present myself in a more masculine way. It’s what I find most comfortable, and it works for me. The way I sit, the way I walk, even some gestures and mannerisms lean more to the masculine side. These aren’t things I can just keep in the bedroom.

I won’t pretend to be something, or someone, I’m not. I won’t put on a dress or makeup because you can’t figure out if I’m a guy with boobs or an actual woman. I refuse to change the way I look so you feel more comfortable around me. I’m old enough to know what bathroom to use. I know I’ll probably be called ‘sir’ at some point. I know someone will unknowingly refer to me as ‘him’. I’m fine with that. It comes with the territory.

download (4)Being butch has its advantages and definitely has its disadvantages. I understand discrimination on a degree that most cisgender femme lesbians don’t. I’m more likely to be called out because of my appearance. Using a public restroom can sometimes play out like an episode of The Walking Dead.

 

Wait...butch lesbians use the women's restrooms??
Wait…butch lesbians use the women’s restrooms??

Most of the time though, I get looks of confusion if I don’t make it to a stall before anyone sees me, or when I’m up at the sink washing my hands. I’ve even gone so far as to mess with ignorant folk in a bar by using both restrooms.

I know I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but I do find myself amazed at how many people become members of the Potty Patrol when a butch lesbian walks into the bathroom. (That sounds like the start of a bad joke…) I’m sorry, but am I one of the few people that believe that most people use the bathroom for its intended purpose? It’s where you poop for cryin’ out loud. It’s not a single’s bar.

Okay, enough toilet talk.

I’m proud to be butch. I hold doors open (In fact, that’s how I met my girlfriend). I let others enter in front of me. I dress in vests and ties and wear fedoras. I like doing heavy work. I like being sexually dominant. I own a chain wallet, a pocket watch, and I shop in the men’s section at clothing stores. I have several straight guy friends who consider me ‘one of the guys’, and I love it.

I try hard not to subscribe to the stereotypes. I do have flannel patterns. But I don’t pair those flannel shirts with Birkenstocks. I don’t always wear a fauxhawk. I do own aviators, but I don’t pop my collar. I like beer. I really like craft beer. I don’t own a ridiculous amount of polos. I do however, own a pair of plaid shorts.

I wear my persona proudly. And when I walk into the women’s restroom, I do so with my head held high (even if it’s just so I can quickly assess the situation and make it to an open stall with as little visibility as possible).

I am a butch lesbian. I am an onion. And I will not hide my layers in the bedroom.

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