It happens numerous times throughout the day. An all too familiar feeling starts to creep up until it can no longer be ignored – that uncomfortable pressure in your nether regions. You start shifting your weight from foot to foot; you clench every muscle in your body. Eventually, you’re facing two nearly identical doors with a decision to make. For many people, it’s automatic, hardly requiring a second thought – you either reach for the door marked with a female body or the one depicting a male body. You enter and leave, feeling relieved, without any further thought.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for a large population of people. When the time comes, it is not always easy for a person to choose either the “men’s” bathroom or the “women’s” bathroom. There are a number of reasons why this may be, but regardless of the “why,” it is unjust to force someone into a situation that makes her or him feel distressed, or even unsafe.
For a transgender person – someone born in a male body but who identifies as a woman (MtF) or a person born in a female body but who identifies as a man (FtM) – society does not care about that individual’s true feelings. In this instance, society cares only about genitalia – essentially, if you’re born in a female body, you will use the “women’s” bathroom. Transgender people, in most cases, do not have the freedom of choice, the right to liberty – the very freedom and rights on which this country was built. As such, transgender people are, in effect, being treated as less than fully American.
It is not only transgender people being affected by the lack of gender-neutral facilities in establishments. Significant populations of people whom identify as gender-queer are also being made to feel like lesser than their cisgendered peers. [editor’s note: “cisgendered” is defined as having one’s biological sex align with one’s gender identity. i.e. female sex and feminine/woman gender identity or male sex and masculine/man gender identity.] Gender-queer is a relatively new term that many people have never even heard before; although it is difficult to define, essentially “gender-queer” is a term that refers to a person that falls outside of the gender binary (i.e. someone who may identify as either being a man and a woman, or as being neither man nor woman.) For a gender-queer person, much like for a transgender person, gender specific bathrooms can be both oppressive and discouraging. Undoubtedly, when a significant group of people is made to feel awkward or out of place entering a gender specific bathroom and that issue is not being properly addressed, that is a problem.
Of course, most people do not even realize how repressive it is to have only gender specific bathrooms. Nevertheless, it should be something of which everyone is aware. I implore you, the next time that nature calls, take a moment to consider how troubling it would be to feel uncomfortable entering the “proper” bathroom.
Written by Devon Bovill