Monday, May 9, 2016

Using Public Restrooms as a Trans Woman / Man

This area is a fast moving hot topic among many trans people. Many of the people who are not so supportive or simply misunderstand who and what we are attempt to pass laws that would prevent us from actually using the appropriate restrooms. As such it is understandable that few things illicit as much fear and anxiety in a trans woman then needing to use a public restroom. People get into fights over this and people get arrested over this, it is not a joke... Recently the state of NC and a number of smaller localities have passed legislation to make it illegal to use the restroom that is specified for a sex different than what is on your birth certificate (here is a link to help you learn how to change it).

With this all in mind I want to take a little bit of time here to give some advice that has helped me and might make things a bit easier.

The first thing I would like to point out is that you must know the law in regards to where you are - I am under the impression that in Texas it is actually a crime to use the bathroom of what is considered the "opposite sex" without permission. This has lead me to the habit of always asking where the restrooms are even if it is obvious. Make sure you know if this is the case where you are, act accordingly and use your best judgement. That being said, here is some simple tips:
  • When in doubt ask - When I am unsure this is what I do. I'll politely ask where the bathroom is located. Usually they'll just point me towards the ladies room, if they specifically point me to the men's room then I usually find somewhere else to go.
  • Get a letter from your therapist - I have one of these. It basically says I am transitioning and as part of my real life training that I am to use the ladies's restroom and dressing room. If someone makes a fuss over which restroom I'm in I just show it to them. This might not keep you from being embarrassed or prevent a physical altercation but it may keep you from being arrested.
  • Change your birth certificate - I understand this can be difficult depending on which state you were born in, how far you have transitioned, and your access to resources. It is however the best legal remedy but does little for the very real physical dangers.
  • BEST OPTION - Use the Family Restroom - If one is available then by all means use it! They are all over the place really and this makes things super easy. 

Anyway, this is by no means an complete list of ideas and there is little to do that will really get rid of the anxiety associated with this. Again I cannot stress the need to know your surroundings and use your best judgement. Lambda Legal also has a great article about what to do if you are hassled while using a public restroom
http://www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/transgender/restroom-faq
Also, know that people are advocating to help! Recent polling suggests that most Americans oppose so called Bathroom Bills. This is good news!

4 comments:

Katrina said...

I think trouble would go hand in hand with "Passability" (Gawd I hate that word!). I've been FT for 8 years now and consider myself passable and have no trouble. Also, having "F" on your I.D. helps tremendously if authorities should happen to be called.

Leslie said...

The trans community has been extended legal protection in Washington State, when it comes to employment, public restrooms and other such aspects of daily life. Yet, even knowing that I had the law on my side, did not prevent going to the ladies room from being a terrifying experience. I've been fully out now for over 2 years and I still have moments when I panic as I walk through the door into a public restroom. I have not had any real trouble, just a few funny looks.

There was this one woman at the mall, that had a problem with me as I left the ladies room. She shouted at me as I walked past, saying that if we were in Texas, she could have me thrown in jail just for going in the rest room. I turned to her, smiled and said that we're not in Texas and I could have her arrested just for giving me a hard time about using the rest room. Maybe I overstated my position, but the shocked look and fear on her face made the whole experience so very worth it.

Vikki Smith said...

The Transgender Law Center says that statistically public restrooms are the most dangerous place for transgender people. The police and security guards are often the perpetrators of the violence too. They're often ignorant of the law. A large portion of the issues the Transgender Law Center deals with involves public restrooms.

http://transgenderlawcenter.org/issues/public-accomodations

Daniel Rold said...

Why is this world so shallow that this is an issue? I'm a libertarian. Do what you want