Public washrooms are unsafe.

Are you a person who doesn’t look like who others would expect in either a men’s or a woman’s bathroom?

Then you are in trouble.

Whether you are trans or gender-non-conform, public washrooms are a source of stress and a place where others feel free to verbally harass you, assault you or ‘just’ make you feel unwelcome and out of place.

A study out of Washington, DC, set up with help from DC Trans Coalition, “identifies the impact that transgender people’s negative experiences in gendered restrooms can have on their education, employment, health, and participation in public life.”

http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/transgender-issues/herman-jpmss-june-2013/

I and my friends often joke about holding up our pee for hours and the trepidation when you do decide to go in.

Well, our bodies don’t like it either way.

*Avoiding* public washrooms leads to bladder and kidney infections and dehydration.

Going in means stepping into an unsafe environment.

And if you have to do that every single day at school or at work, you end up with stress related illnesses, like depression, social anxiety, high blood pressure or migraines to name but a few.

What else? Well, you skip classes, you drop out of school. Or maybe you keep changing jobs because this time around access to washrooms didn’t get better. Again.

What do I do?

I steel myself. I close my eyes. I avoid other people’s eyes. I smile excessively. I push out my breasts even though I hate doing that because it doesn’t feel like me.

Or I walk around with swishing hips and exaggerated hand movements.

A friend of mine hums in a high tone or coughs on a high octave.

Really.

And it feels… not okay. Unsafe.

Heck, it *is* unsafe.
Don’t tell me it would never happen where YOU work.

I was stared at in a supremely hostile manner in the washroom of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal during a gendered washroom harassment case.

I was verbally assaulted in a queer bar.

Yes, the irony!

So, next time you see someone in the washroom that you think doesn’t belong there. Think again. Don’t stare.

And leave us be.

If there is nothing else happening other than us taking a piss, just leave us be.

Thank you.

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3 thoughts on “Public washrooms are unsafe.

  1. Thanks for this perspective. As a former elementary teacher, I can attest to the fact that not being able to go to the bathroom when necessary sucks. I’m sorry this is such a problem for you.

    Your post reminded me of something really funny that happened to my daughters recently in an airport. They went into the women’s restroom at the same time (it truly was the women’s room – I saw them enter). When they came out of their stalls, a gentleman came out of another stall at the same time. He stared at them for a moment, then said, pointedly, “You two do know this is the men’s restroom?”

    Basically, public restrooms are stressful for everyone, I think!

  2. Your story is funny.

    Thank you for your comment.

    Perhaps you don’t mean to say that your daughters’ experience is anything like ours, but verbal harassment and physical assault is a *daily* lived experience for us.

    It is even worse for people of colour, for people who haven’t fully transitioned and for sex workers.

    I changed the title of my post to reflect what I actually wanted to convey and for whatever reason tried to soften.

    I have been pushed out of the washroom, been yelled at, been called names. I have never been beaten up. Some of my friends have been. A *lot* of my acquaintances have been beaten up.

    Imagine being part of a community where verbal and physical harassment is *this* common?

    I get dark looks and comments *every time* I go to a public washroom. Even at work this happens.

    I am nervous and often scared going in.

    Something needs to change.

  3. I try to avoid them as much as possible (I always pee before I leave the house) and keep a mental list of “safe” ones – i.e. single/unisex ones. When I am out in public I try to enter with my girlfriend. But I’ve had a number of confrontations and they have all been ugly.

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