Why There is Nothing to be Afraid Of: A Transgender Perspective on Bathroom Laws

Guest Post by R.T. Edwins (Emma)

I am a transfeminine person. Many see me simply as a woman or a transwoman, and I use the women’s bathroom every single time I need to go to the bathroom in public. I have used the women’s bathroom so many times I can’t even give you an accurate number. Suffice it to say that it has been at least a 100 different times. I have never, not even once, thought about how I could utilize this opportunity to attack, harass, or spy on the other women in that bathroom. I have never, not even once, tried to utilize these bathroom visits to satisfy some sort of sexual desire. I am a transfeminine person who is primarily attracted to women and have NEVER ONCE thought about my bathroom visits as anything besides visits to relieve myself.

I have, however, been very scared in the women’s bathroom. I have wondered if I would be attacked, harassed or humiliated by the women in there. If a woman in that bathroom looks at me longer than a brief glance my anxiety goes through the roof as I envision her telling me I can’t be in there, that I can’t stay, or that I am some sort of pervert. I fear for my life and my dignity every time I go into a women’s restroom because of the very misinformation that has led to states like North Carolina passing their recent law.

Worst still, is the anxiety I feel when considering what it would be like to have to visit the men’s room in my current state and appearance. While my fear of being harassed, attacked or humiliated by women is significant, it pales in comparison to the fear I’d feel of experiencing the same at the hands of men. It is not only inappropriate for me to use the men’s room, but it is downright dangerous. There has never been any report of a transgender person utilizing their bathroom privileges to harass or attack cisgender people in the bathroom. The opposite scenario is rife with danger, however, and state laws that force transgender individuals into the wrong bathroom only illustrate how dangerous ignorance really is.

We see pictures floating around the internet of extremely masculine transmen with taglines like “coming soon to North Carolina women’s bathrooms” and the message is rather clear. It is not appropriate for these individuals to be in these bathrooms and putting a face to the reality of these oppressive laws does illustrate, to a degree, how ridiculous they are. Pictures and taglines, however, are not enough. Visibly seeing what will be happening can change the minds of a few, but we need more than that. We need the humanity behind those pictures. We need the voices, hearts, minds, and souls behind those pictures. It is one thing to see how ludicrous the law is when it forces bearded, muscle-bound men into women’s bathrooms, but it is something entirely more to see below the surface to the dehumanizing aspects of the law.

I hope to provide at least a partial account myself but we need more than that. We need more voices speaking out. We need more accounts to be shared. They have to understand the humanity that we have within us so they can stop spreading their hatred and ignorance. I know it is a fight that is unlikely to be won. It is unlikely that people who adhere so ferociously to their dogma and read it in a way that says others are lesser than them will ever truly change, but even if just one person reads my words, or yours for that matter, and has a change of heart then that is a victory.

My name is Emma, I was born with male genitalia, and I was raised and socialized as a male. I spent the first 28 years of my life using male restrooms and living as a man. I lived as a heterosexual man and when I made the decision to transition from my male life to a transfeminine life, my sexual preferences came with me. I am still very attracted to women. I love women. I find their minds, their hearts, and their bodies lovely to behold and to touch. I still have sex with women, even as I present to the world as a woman, and I use the women’s bathroom when in public. In my state of Minnesota the law is somewhat ambiguous on bathroom rights but it often operates on a don’t ask, don’t tell philosophy. It is most often left up to the individual to decide where they should be going and for many (but not all) transgender individuals that choice is pretty clear. I fall into that category. I look like a woman. I dress like a woman. I sound like a woman. I am seen as and treated as a woman by strangers. I am fortunate that more often than not people do not notice anything off about me and accept me as a woman, which is what I want from those who do not need to know more.

I have used the women’s bathroom when other women were in it many times. I have even, as most women do from time to time, stood in line with a group of women waiting for an available stall to alleviate myself. I have chatted with those women in those lines. I have chatted with them as we examined our appearance in the mirror after washing our hands. I have had lovely, COMPLETELY NON-SEXUAL, interactions with women in women’s bathrooms countless times and never once did it enter my mind to take advantage of that scenario for my own personal desires, AND I’M ATTRACTED TO WOMEN SEXUALLY!

If I, a transfeminine individual who is as attracted to women as most heterosexual men, can have a friendly, non-sexual conversation with a woman I have never met before as we wait in line to pee, then where is this dangerous sexual predator we hear so much about? By all accounts, I fit the exact qualifications for this transgender boogeyman these conservative politicians talk about when they push these laws through state legislatures. I was born male, I cross-dressed as a kid and a teenager, I made the decision to live my life as a woman (or something close to a woman), I am sexually attracted to women, and I use the bathroom with them on a consistent basis… so why haven’t I attacked anyone or tried to spy on anyone while in that bathroom?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s because this boogeyman these politicians try to force down our throats doesn’t actually exist. Maybe, just maybe, we transgender individuals are in the bathroom just because we need to go to the bathroom. Maybe, just maybe, we don’t have any ulterior motives for entering that most sacred of places where women and children go to pee. Maybe, and this could be a stretch for some I’ll admit, I go into the women’s bathroom to pee simply because I am a woman and I have the right to decide I’m a woman, and I have the right to know where the appropriate place is for me to pee.

Conservatives push and push again for government deregulation. They say government overreach is a true struggle of our time. They advocate deregulating our economy, our gun laws, our tax code, and our social services. They say that big government doesn’t have the right to enter our homes and tell us how to live because we are Americans, and America is the land of the free. They talk about how we all have the ability to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and that individual work and choices is what makes our country great, except when it comes to people like me.

When it comes to me, a person they refuse to understand and barely acknowledge even exists, it is not only appropriate for the government to step in and regulate where I can use the bathroom and where I can’t (the most personal of personal freedoms, I’d argue) but it is MANDATORY that they do. They have to “protect” our free society from the menace of those who don’t fit into their gender binary and their heterosexual worldview because they are different, and different, of course, means dangerous. Then, and only then, is it okay for government overreach to be tolerated, accepted, and enacted into law.

I cannot adequately express into words how disheartening this is as a transgender individual. I cannot put into words for you to understand the sick feeling I get in the pit of my stomach as I watch these politicians sign their bills into law with grins on their faces, like they are proud of their bigotry, hatred, and fear. I live in a state where one of these bills is being pushed through our legislature by these same conservative efforts to regulate where I pee. Luckily our governor has already said he will veto it, but he won’t be the governor forever and there is no guarantee the next governor or the next legislature won’t succeed where this attempt to make oppression the law of our state has failed. Multiple states have already turned these oppressive bills into laws.

I feel so powerless. So broken, and misunderstood, and defeated when I see what happened in North Carolina. I just need to pee. We all just need to pee. We aren’t a menace. We aren’t a danger. We’ve been here all along, peeing right next to you without you even knowing. We’ve been here forever, really. Transgender isn’t a new thing, even if the term is new. We are humans. We have feelings, hearts, minds, and fears, and right now, we are afraid of the conservative pushback to transgender visibility. We don’t deserve to be ignored, but we absolutely don’t deserve to be oppressed further than we already are as a consequence of our visibility. Please don’t buy into their boogeyman antics. Just because you may think we are different, doesn’t mean we are dangerous. We are just people… just like you.

Author Bio

Transgender BathroomsR.T. Edwins (Emma), is a graduate student at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota where she is studying to become a Marriage and Family Therapist. When not focusing on her studies she spends her free time authoring the blog Trans-Advent, the science fiction series Chariots of Heaven Saga (available on Amazon and iTunes), and other various fiction works. Emma can be reached at rtedwins@gmail.com

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  • Jeff

    April 29, 2016 at 2:32 PM Reply

    The only problem with your article is that there is no verification process to confirm and identify transgender people. I am a heterosexual man, I could simply say “I feel like a woman” and according to the LGBT community I should be allowed in the women’s facilities. Although restrooms with stall doors are less of a problem, locker rooms with open changing facilities and showers are an issue. I believe that the concerns are that we should just take you at your word, and there are real perverts who will abuse the opportunity. I believe that for restrooms, “don’t ask, don’t tell” would be a better policy.

    • Emma

      April 30, 2016 at 2:11 PM Reply

      Hello Jeff. Thank you for leaving a comment. I can see how your train of thought would lead you to your conclusion and I can definitely see why that is an alarming conclusion to come to. I agree that I wouldn’t want predators to start showing up in women’s bathrooms/locker rooms (or men’s bathrooms/ locker rooms because sex offenders go both ways) under the guise that they are transgender. I absolutely understand the fear and the desire to keep things safe in bathrooms and locker rooms, and actually it is that shared fear that I and all other transgender individuals have that prevents that exact situation from happening or having actually happened before. I can explain.

      The first thing that is important to remember is that we transgender individuals have been using these bathrooms and locker rooms all along. You have almost assuredly used a bathroom with a transgender man and didn’t even know it. These laws are only really a new thing because we’ve stopped hiding in the shadows and on the fringes of society where all underprivileged peoples are supposed to live and demanded some visibility. Many of us started coming out to speak about the oppression we face in employment, housing, and healthcare, not to mention the violence we have to live through. We did this in the hopes that we would be able to inhabit a safer, more equitable world (just as our gay, lesbian, and bisexual allies did before us). The reason it is important to remember that we have been using these bathrooms all along is to illustrate that this potential dangerous scenario you described has not happened under the auspices of a don’t ask don’t tell climate. No sexual predator, to date, has utilized the fact that almost all the states in the U.S. have been allowing (knowingly or not) transgender people to pick their appropriate bathrooms and locker rooms for as long as we’ve been here. If it hasn’t happened before then why is a law intended to prohibit it necessary when it comes at the cost of alienating an already oppressed people?

      The second thing that is important to remember is that we share your fear of an unsafe bathroom/locker room experience. We fear being harassed. We fear being humiliated. We fear being attacked. We fear being sexually assaulted. We fear being murdered. For those very reasons it will be immediately obvious who was there because they belonged there and who was trying to exploit a loophole (which as we’ve discussed has yet to ever happen). A transgender woman who looks and presents as a man either because she must or because she is not ready to present as female in public is not about to walk into a women’s bathroom with her suit and tie on and assert she is a woman. Why? Because she will be harassed, humiliated, attacked, and likely chased out if not worse. Believe me when I say that is the last thing we transgender individuals ever want to experience willingly. We experience it so often outside of bathrooms/locker rooms that to put ourselves there willingly would be insanity. A predator would immediately stand out and be easy to spot, even without a law. Most transgender individuals go into the bathroom and try to make as little of an impression as possible. Many avoid eye contact, many don’t talk to people and most want to get in, do the business, and get out as soon as possible. We are more afraid of using the bathroom/locker room than you are of predators showing up there, which brings me to my third point.

      These predators that you are worried will suddenly start exploiting the transgender bathroom situation are already in those bathrooms and locker rooms… with you and your sons (or with the women and daughters if they are female). They’ve been there all along, spying, taking pictures, approaching, and worse. There are so many more accounts of sexual predators preying on individuals of their same sex in bathrooms and locker rooms than there will ever be of the opposite scenario. How can you verify that the men in your locker room aren’t sexual predators? Sure there are sex offender lists, but how does that help you when Joe (who looks just like any other guy, because they usually do) walks in unannounced and sits across the locker room with his lingering eyes on your son? The point I’m trying to make is that bathrooms and locker rooms have been an unsafe place because of predators for as long as there have been predators but there has never been a push for a law to verify that someone isn’t a sex offender before they can enter a public bathroom/locker room. Why is it different now?

      These laws are not about safe bathrooms, if they assert that they are. They are not about safe locker rooms. They are about oppressing a group of people who are “different” than the rest of you and different (somehow, someway) always means dangerous. It’s a tale as old as time. These laws are showing up because we are demanding equality. Why when a group of people demands equality is it appropriate to make further oppression of that group of people the law of the land? Maybe, just maybe, it has nothing to do with what’s between my legs when I sit in a women’s stall to pee, but has something to do with the power and privilege of those pushing for and enacting these laws.

      • Jeff

        May 1, 2016 at 6:04 PM Reply

        So in your opinion, I should be happy if a person with a penis wants to change in the girls locker room in middle or high school.

  • Emma

    May 2, 2016 at 1:35 AM Reply

    In my opinion I believe you should stop focusing on the genitalia and see the person instead. We are more than what’s between our legs after all. In my opinion you should open up your heart and try to put yourself in their shoes as best as you can. I don’t think you should be happy, I think you should be compassionate and empathetic instead of fearful. We really aren’t as dangerous or deranged as they would have you believe. We are people with hearts and dreams and feelings just like you. We Want to fall in love and get married and start families. We simply ask that we be allowed to define ourselves instead of some arbitrary rule that the shape of your genitals (assuming they conform to expectations which millions don’t) dictates gender. Nature is not black and white, so why would we ever think humans, one of the most complex of all lifeforms, would be stuck to a binary? Medical science actually knows of 6 different possible sexes and that those sexes can actually differ from one part of your body to another. We are more complex than one or the other and it’s time public policy represented a broader perspective of differentiation.

  • Jeff

    May 2, 2016 at 8:51 AM Reply

    What six possible sexes do you speak of?

  • Jeff

    May 2, 2016 at 8:55 AM Reply

    I have one more question while I wait for your reply, how does your statement apply:

    “I absolutely understand the fear and the desire to keep things safe in bathrooms and locker rooms, and actually it is that shared fear that I and all other transgender individuals have that prevents that exact situation from happening or having actually happened before. I can explain.”

    I understand that you may not be the problem or danger, but how do you advocate to allow anyone who declares that they feel like a woman to use the women’s facilities and prevent offenders from using that as a loophole.

  • Emma

    May 2, 2016 at 1:59 PM Reply

    6 sexes as described here: http://www.joshuakennon.com/the-six-common-biological-sexes-in-humans/

    Placing additional burdens on an already oppressed minority isn’t the answer, especially when there has never once been a predator that has tried to use this loophole despite decades of trans people using bathrooms that correspond with their identified gender. This predator you refer to is the bogeyman they use to instill fear of being different, and like the normal bogeyman it doesn’t exist. There is nothing to prevent because it has never happened. If a predator does suddenly pop up then they will do something a trans person never would and will be charged with a crime, just like every other predator does.

  • Ann

    January 26, 2017 at 4:14 PM Reply

    I am a hereosexual, non-transgender woman and have no fear of transgender women using the women’s bathroom. You should not be barred from using the womens bathroom just because some perverts in the world “might” say thet are TG just to look at women. Come on! Doing that has nothing to do with being TG! Why should what someone else might do, deprive you of your rights? You are a woman and have just as much right to use it as I or any other women do. People need to start having empathy for others and start accepting people for who they are. I can only imagine how hard it would be if I had been born in a male body, and then have to deal with people who would try to keep me from being a woman because they think male or female is only about natal gender. You keep being yourself and keep speaking out. There really are many people who support your rights!

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