I was on a first date with a woman I would never see again. We had met in a less than memorable way and the majority of our date was less than memorable. We met for dinner and a movie—classic date. I have no recollection of the restaurant or the movie. Obviously the date was not something to write home about, nor is it anything to write a blog post about. So what am I even doing? Well there is one part of the date I remember like it happened yesterday four years ago, but was traumatic enough that it has replayed in my mind a thousand times in IMAX detail.
My less than memorable date and I were part way through dinner and had covered the typical first date topics: favorite movies, tv shows, food, animals, and funny and/or impressive stories about ourselves. Throughout the date, I had also been drinking water like a dehydrated elephant that had just stumbled across a watering hole and suddenly had to use the restroom. I hate using public restrooms because as a trans man I need a stall, preferably a single stall or one with a good lock. In case you aren’t aware, men’s restrooms are less than reliable for these needs. Also, they are very reliable for being disgusting. As I excused myself I did a prayer to the progressive gender non-binary bathroom gods that there would be an unoccupied locking stall or a single-user-all-gender-friendly restroom. I opened the men’s restroom and breathed a heavy sigh of relief when it was totally empty with a stall and a urinal. I walk-ran to the stall and pushed on the door to find it was locked. Then, I saw it. A sign that read “Out of order. Sorry for the inconvenience.” NOOOOO! NOOOO! FRICK! FRICK! FRICKITY FRICK! Why did you drink all that water, you dumb camel? Idiot. As I tried to think of a plan the door opened and two big and burly looking guys walked in. I quickly exited in a panic.
I went back to my date. She said “That was quick.” I then, without thinking took a nervous sip of water before silently cursing at myself for doing that. I pretended to look at my watch and said, “If you still want to catch that movie, we should probably get our bill and head over?” She pulled her phone out of her purse and glanced at the time before replying “We still have 45 minutes.”
“Yeah, but we have to get the bill, walk to the car, drive over there, get tickets and find seats. Plus, if you want [insert her favorite candy that I have at this point forgotten but had remembered at the time] we’ll have to wait in line at concessions!” I tried to justify in a very mansplany mansplanation. And I have to pee really bad and movie theaters always have multiple stalls—even in the men’s room. C’mon, read my mind and just go along with this.
She smiled at hearing her favorite candy and agreed. We got our check and started walking to my car. By the time we pulled into the theater I was singing a pee song in my head. It went like this “I have to pee, I have to pee, I have to pee hey hey hey hey!” As we walked up to the theater, I said “Geez, I guess I shouldn’t have drank all that water (no kidding, dumb dumb) I’ll be right back, do you mind?” I didn’t even wait for a reply—I just booked it to the bathroom, sprinting to the first open stall. As I struggled with my belt, I thought I wasn’t going to make it for a brief moment. I did, though. After that the rest of the date fades from memory.
The first time I vividly remember being made to feel uncomfortable in a bathroom, I was just ten years old. It was the summer before 5th grade and I was at a summer camp in California, while I spent a few months with my dad. My hair was cut into a short bowl-like cut—I looked like JTT from Home Improvement circa 1992. The summer camp had taken us on a field trip to some state park for a day of hiking and nature-ing. At ten my reasoning and logic skills were not well developed. As such, I had ignored the counselor’s requests for everyone to use the bathroom before we left, because I was having fun coloring or some shit. And during the 45-minute bus ride I had decided to consume both my capri suns. By the time we arrived at the park, I had a pee-mergency!
The counselors split us up by boys and girls and walked the pee-dancing group of us to the bathrooms. While I waited for a stall to open up, I heard two adult women whisper behind me.
“Do you see this boy in front of us?” One asked the other.
“Poor thing probably can’t read. Do you think he knows he’s in the women’s restroom.” The other replied.
My cheeks got red, as I held back tears. A stall opened and I rushed in. As I locked the door, I could feel a hot tear roll down my cheek.
This happened a lot, almost every time I went to the bathroom. I learned to avoid bathrooms, which meant not drinking anything all day/dehydrating myself or holding it, which sometimes led to me embarrassingly wetting myself. Going to the bathroom became a source of anxiety for me at just ten years old. I was told to use the women’s restroom but once inside a women’s restroom I’d get looks, yelled at, questioned, and sometimes kicked out.
One time when I was about 14, I was at a beach with my dad and brother, boogie boarding and collecting really important shells and rocks. I excused myself to the bathroom, which was inconveniently across the beach. As I approached the restroom, I hesitated. I was in my wetsuit and had already been called “young man” several times that afternoon. I could just pee in the ocean—gross it’d sit in my wetsuit. I took a deep breath and rushed passed an older teen girl into the open stall. As I was exiting, three older boys (probably 16-17) met me outside.
“Hey kid! Why were you in the girl’s bathroom? Are you some kind of perv!?” The biggest one yelled at me.
I tried to squeeze past them but they closed the gap. “Come on, answer him.” One wearing a red bucket hat yelled.
“I’m—I’m—I’m a girl. I just had to pee.” I stuttered.
“Shit. You look like a dude—you should grow your hair out or wear make-up or get a pink wetsuit so we can tell you’re not some perv creeping on our sisters.” The biggest one said. At that they all left and walked towards the girl I had passed by in the restroom moments ago.
My whole life, both before and after I transitioned, I’ve been told I was in the wrong bathroom. My whole life I’ve just wanted to pee in peace. The vast majority of trans people and gender nonconforming people can tell similar stories—and many have experienced far more horrific stories, including assault. All for just trying to pee. Trans people in bathrooms is all over the news and papers with a false narrative based on the fears and hatred of people who do not know trans people. This false narrative is about how letting trans people use the bathroom will lead to women being sexually assaulted in bathrooms. It incorrectly vilifies trans people, mostly trans women and has resulted in an increase of assaults towards trans people, mostly trans women. If these concerned citizens are truly worried about the sexual assault of women, then they should be fighting rape culture not trans people. But this false narrative is rooted in transphobia, misogyny and racism and disguised as something else. The real and honest narrative (over simplified) is that trans people are people and people have to pee. Sometimes people have to pee when they are at home, sometimes they have to pee at a friend’s house, sometimes they have to pee while they are in school, and sometimes they have to pee when they are on a less than memorable first date. And people have the right to pee in the bathroom that aligns with their gender free of harassment and free of discrimination.
Now if you excuse me, I need to use the restroom because I’ve drank an entire bottle of wine while writing this post.
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