Never before did I think that relieving myself of bodily waste was a radical act.
It's been reported on HuffPo and elsewhere that a number of states within the US - Florida, Kentucky, Arizona, Utah and Texas among them - have been or are considering legislation mandating that everyone use bathrooms consistent with their natal gender. Other states like Michigan already have similar legislation that criminalizes using the "wrong" bathroom as "disturbing the peace", with "wrong" left open to whatever interpretation the authorities might want to apply.
Clearly these laws are aimed directly at transgender and gender nonconforming people. A transgender woman (a woman who has transitioned from male to female and lives each day as a woman) would be forced to use the men's room. A transgender man (a man who has transitioned from female to male and lives each day as a man) would have no alternative but to use the women's room. To say nothing of people whose genders are more ambiguous. Ultimately, it would criminalize transgender people for using the bathroom consistent with the gender they walk in every moment of their lives. This leaves my community with the question: To pee or not to pee?
I remember struggles in early transition to make sure I got it right: I might spend one day presenting male around my family, who I had yet to tell or who had yet to become comfortable... then another day at school or with friends while presenting female, around people I could trust and who were supportive of the identity I was working to gradually adopt.
When Nature called, I answered, in whichever bathroom matched my appearance. (My policy: if Nature calls, don't let it go to voicemail.) When dressed like a woman, I used the women's room; it seemed simplest and the least disruptive for everyone. I went in the stall, did my business, washed my hands and left. And as my gender presentation became more and more female, I stopped using the men's room altogether.
I'm not going to joke sarcastically about 'separate but equal' bathrooms or question who will become the underwear or DNA police. And other bloggers have already written about how these laws make the world that much more unsafe for a group which is already facing severe discrimination and violence.
The personal is political, and there's nothing more personal than sitting on the toilet. Now it's political, too.
Behind these laws is fear. On the surface it might be the fear that transgender people are all child molesters, rapists, perverted guys in dresses or are somehow engaged in devious sexual activities that will ultimately lead to the downfall of Western civilization. As Michel Foucault wrote, it always seems to reduce to sex.
But I wonder if underneath all those arguments is the fear that the world is changing so incredibly fast and in ways so many people do not understand and cannot control. The fear that even some of the most basic, straightforward 'truths' society has relied on -- that men are men and have sex with women, and that women are women and have sex with men -- are breaking down. That black and white dichotomies are becoming infinite gradations of gray, or the multitudinous hues of a rainbow. That people are not so easily classified, and that the world which once seemed simple is becoming chaotic and unmanageable.
I'm not unsympathetic; feelings of loss of control are among of the biggest stressors we experience in life, they can shake our sense of stability and leave us adrift. In such moments we are suffering, overwhelmed with panic. We all have been there.
Our intuitive responses to fear and loss of control are so often the same. People turn to 'fight or flight', desperate attempts to regain control that might simultaneously push the triggers out of sight, out of mind. These could take the form of violence, like bashing and arrest, or they could take the form of ostracization, the shunning of whatever it is that activates the discomfort.
To some, transgender people have become proxies for the broader cultural change occurring before our eyes. We represent the breakdown of the social order. Our bodies and identities do not fit the old norms. And so the laws targeting us are a backlash, attempts to police that which seems confusing and to instill fear so as to push us into the shadows. If we are afraid for our physical and emotional safety, we hide, back in the closet. Which may be what the legislators intended.
But the world IS changing, like it or not. And as always, it is up to the oppressed to resist.
Transgender people have used public restrooms for the last sixty years, and a mass epidemic of trans*-related sexual assault has not occurred. You may not realize that you've very possibly already shared a restroom with one of us. We just want to live our lives, enjoy the pursuit of happiness and empty our bladders in peace like everyone else.
We're here, we're queer. Sometimes we carry placards and march in the streets. Sometimes we pee in the restrooms at the mall. Get used to it.