Monday, October 31, 2011

"The Euphemism"

I'm standing outside of the bathrooms on the fourth floor in a distant corner of the Utah State University library. My girlfriend has patiently waited with me for the last ten minutes holding my hand, as I muster the courage to use the men's restroom. This is the moment that I've been losing sleep over. Technically, I know a few things.

  1. I am barely passing as male

  2. There is probably not a soul in this bathroom, much less one who is going to attack or harass me

  3. I can't keep using the women's restroom for reasons I am unable to explain

But, like I said, I lost a lot of sleep and had three or four nightmares over bathrooms. “Would I be harassed/attacked? Would I be humiliated? What if someone walks in on me? What will someone do if they notice I'm peeing sitting down? What if only urinals are available?” I hadn't been harassed, but I already felt humiliated by my vulnerability. I actually considered finding a way not to use public restrooms ever again

After that first time, it was admittedly a little frightening for a while. I don't remember ever getting any serious sideways glances. (One thing I figured out quickly is that the more I looked like I thought I belonged there, the more people expected me to belong there... which, of course, I do.) It got easier as I went along, and even more so when I had been on hormones for a bit. Today, I usually use a public restroom without worrying about potential harm and/or confrontation.

It is important to note, that I have an important added privilege here, because I “pass” as male pretty well. Transgender people who do not pass or do not pass well are at more risk. I have been safe, and honestly, even though I may never master the art of the stand-to-pee device and I may spend a few extra hours of my life waiting for the guy in the next stall to leave before I pee, I will probably continue to be safe in the future. I look male enough to never get more than a rare second glance and a couple “ma'ame's” a year

A couple caveats: I don't want to discount our fears, and our legitimate concerns of violence. I am not saying that trans people don't have it bad. For more details, check out the National Center for Transgender Equality's recently released study of 6,500 transgender Americans.

What I am saying is that sometimes it is ok to take a deep breath and recognize that you may not be in as much danger as it feels like. If you feel you are in danger, keep a look out and do what you need to to keep safe. The buddy system works wonders, if you can do it. But also know that if you're waiting for the person in the other stall to leave and they aren't... it usually has nothing to do with them recognizing that you're trans. They're probably just waiting for you too.


  1. Thank you for describing this difficult process. I've heard that beginning to use the bathroom of the gender to which someone is transitioning is a huge step, but it never really clicked for me (on a gut level) exactly *why* that is. This helps very much. Thank you!

  2. Jack, I'm so glad to have your perspective. I'm always talking about how important it is to become informed on tough issues, and I still have a lot of informing to do for myself. I definitely don't understand transgender issues or what kinds of things (like this bathroom thing) that makes life harder for all our trans-friends :)

    I'm glad to have your voice for the blog!

    Oh, and I'm curious how long did it take for you to decide it was time to start using the men's restroom? I'd like to know more about your process...I guess it'll come out with more posts :)

  3. PS: The title is a reference to "Grinch Night" (they called the bathroom the "euphemism") in commemoration of Halloween.

    Glad to be here, Tiffany :) Ummmm... from when I knew I identified on the masculine side to when I decided to use the men's restroom.... I don't know that I had a specific moment. I think I knew I wanted to stop using the women's restroom before I knew I wanted to start using the men's. I slowly realized my gender; it didn't really come all in one surprising blow.