To pee, or not to pee; urine trouble now

There is an awful lot of noise being generated with respect to the use of public facilities by trans* people of late. This is always a subject of much discussion on relevant internet discussion boards and amongst the trans* community. ‘What toilet do I use,’ is nearly as common a question for us as ‘what is your greatest strength’, is in job interviews; generating about the same level of interest as well. However this issue has now reached the attention of broader society and we may be seeing the first signs of real tension and thus progress in this regard.

Planet Fitness in the USA has taken a stand for self identification and has gone so far as banning a woman from their gym for objecting to their inclusive policy. For more on this you can check out this link  or indeed Google it, it has been extensively covered elsewhere. Coincidentally it seems there is something of a backlash against trans* people using public toilets in certain parts of America, as certain states are seeking to prevent trans* people using toilets that are not the same as their assigned sex at birth. There are a number of stories about this, but these links  will give you an idea of what has been going on.

Now I am of course very excited that trans* people’s concerns are finally becoming mainstream and of course being sure of your legal and socially condoned right to use a toilet is a good thing, but I think we need to realise that we as trans* people do not exist in a vacuum. We are members of society and as such our actions impact society as much as society’s actions impact on us.

At one and the same time, I applaud Planet Fitness for adhering to an inclusive and tolerant policy and yet have empathy for the woman that found herself unable to share a changing room with a trans* person. She is as much a product of her particular history and circumstances as we are. She has simply not been able to adjust her world view. How do we reconcile these two conflicting positions:

  1. Trans* people who have a real, legitimate and justified need to function in society
  2. The broader public who do not understand trans* issues and who are unable to differentiate between sex and gender?

Clearly in an ideal world the problem would not exist. In an ideal world there would be zero hang ups about nudity. In an ideal world there would be no risk of sexual predators in any public space. In an ideal world we would be safe and free. We do not live in an ideal world. Women often feel unsafe. Parents worry about allowing children to use public toilets without ‘supervision’. People of all sorts feel the need to be segregated from the ‘other’ sex when changing, using the toilet, washing hands etc.

I do not think too many people (especially those in ‘Anglo Saxon’ countries) are ready for unisex toilets and change rooms, but I do think we can start to move society towards this acceptance. It would be nice if all public toilets were universally designed. No open urinals, just closed booths and an open area for basins, mirrors etc. Change rooms in gyms could be similarly designed with individual private changing cubicles attached to a small shower.

The costs need not be prohibitive, indeed there may even be some space saving and all that would be required is a law that said all public toilets designed after a particular date will follow this specification. Existing toilets could remain segregated. Trans* people would then start to be accepted into society as people gradually got comfortable with our being there. Sure there would be some teething problems and some conflict and tension will be experienced, but nothing is achieved without conflict. We as a community would need to be sensitive and consider others (as I am sure most of us already do) but by governments  acknowledging the wrong headedness of the current approach, society may start to see that we are not as scary as they first thought.

In any event the public debate about what has always been an issue of concern and embarrassment to many of us is to be welcomed. I hope that we will come out of this with a greater acceptance and understanding as well as more tolerance all round. These are indeed exciting times for the trans* community. Furthermore victories won in the USA (or anywhere else) can only make things easier for those in the rest of the world, although some societies move much slower than others. I just cannot see a gym in South Africa championing a trans* person over a cis gender person. Come on, prove me wrong, I dare you! (Not that it should get to that point, with understanding, compassion, empathy and mutual respect a lot can be achieved.)


Add yours →

  1. Reblogged this on Michelle Has Yet Another Blog and commented:
    I think this something we need to understand is that we need a system that works for everyone. Have tolerance and empathy to the concerns of others. What that system would be, I would have no idea. But its good to debate and discuss the issue and in the process find a way that we all can do our ‘business’ in public and not feel uncomfortable doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What would really be of ENORMOUS help, would be more trans friendly or transgender architects. Another good thing to do? Make sure your local governments planning commissions have it in they’re best practices to include facilities for “Other”. And by that, I mean exactly what I just said. Transitional people should have transitional facilities. The upside? When people get over they’re trans-cooties syndrome, and eventually, I believe we will, you’ll have a whole set of facilities standing by in case one breaks. It’s win/win for all of us angry monkeys here on Planet PTSD ! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh man so many great puns to be made out of this issue

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am in agreement with you about the best idea – having private cubicles in all bathrooms and change rooms. I have been rather horrified about these new laws as of late, and to be honest I wish some segments would not have pushed for bathroom laws that would give them the “permission” to use the restroom of their presented gender, since there was no law AGAINST doing such before. The push FOR inclusion laws has resulted in a pushback for specific laws AGAINST inclusion.

    For the people that started hollering about this as though it is a recent thing. Oh honey – you’ve been sharing “your” restroom with trans* people for a long, long time. Get used to it. Some of us didn’t care and went in the restroom we thought was right years ago. I’ve done so numerous times and there has never been a problem (however I do know that others HAVE had problems). In Ladies Rooms, I’m not sure why it is a problem anyway – it is a row of cubicles with doors. Ain’t nobody running around naked in there.

    I never had a thought about it before, but NOW I am concerned about it because some states have passed these laws to exclude us. Now before I go on a trip anywhere, in case I have to use the restroom, I have to find out the laws of every place I’ll be before doing so. That sucks.

    I do have somewhat of an advantage over other trans* people. I’m LG – that means “Little Girl” …. little enough that I wear diapers. So for the most part I am covered, but I do still need to change from time to time, and what about “adjustments” like pulling up my tights, etc.?

    BTW – I don’t think the lady was banned just because she objected. HAD that been the case, I would have felt empathy for her as well. After quite a bit of digging on this case (I do a fair bit of journalism – it is one of the ways I support myself), it became clear that she objected and then kept raising the ante. She objected to the local gym and didn’t like the outcome. She then objected to the head office and didn’t like that answer either. It was what she did THEN that got her banned – she started to gather a “posse” of sorts in the locker room, to harass and bully the trans* person who used that locker room. She was relentless in this and really quite rude. No, I have no empathy whatsoever and no sympathy for whatever happens to a person once they have resorted to bullying. I put up with far too much bullying as a kid that I could ever look at it “objectively” now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice post. And, thanks for the links.

    Liked by 1 person

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