Bathroom Advice

For transgender people, the bathroom is an incredibly significant place. I mean, sure, everyone uses the bathroom. However, for trans people, bathrooms can be stressful, embarrassing, frightening, or even dangerous. When a trans person is just starting transition, bathrooms can be one of the biggest obstacles they face, despite the fact all they want to do is pee. And so, I want to share some of my bathroom experience. I promise I washed my hands!
When someone decides to enter a bathroom, they are immediately faced with one of two choices (usually). Stick figure with pants or stick figure with a dress. You have to pick one or the other. Sometimes you will be lucky and find a gender neutral bathroom, but more often than not you will have to pick one of the two doors to go through. My advice for which door to choose is what I call “the bathroom of least resistance.” If you are presenting male, and look more male than female, use the men’s bathroom. If you present and/or look more female, use the women’s room. This can change based on the day, but the best bet is to blend when dealing with bathrooms. If you look too much in the middle, you will probably have issues blending. Gender ambiguous people often struggle a great deal more than transsexuals when it comes to using bathrooms.
Behavior is very important in bathrooms. Men do not talk, unless you are with a friend or were talking before you went in. Women will strike up conversation over the stall wall with strangers at times, and small talk is very common. It throws many trans people off when they first enter the other restroom, but it is easy enough to adjust.
There is a concept in the trans community called Stand To Pee, which may be very important for transmen. By using devices such as spoons (which you can buy easily over the internet), transmen are able to use a urinal just like any other man. It does take practice though, as well as finding the right device to use for yourself. Transwomen have to learn the opposite; when using a public ladies’ room, a transwoman should always sit. Its not because other women are going to be staring in your stall, but seeing a set of feat pointed the wrong way, even in passing, may cause alarm. However, a transwoman can still pee standing up without a problem. If I am ever out camping, I swear you will not find me squatting.
Another important pee-releated lesson for trans people is about sound. Transgender women and men (but especially men from what I have heard) have to change the sound they make when urinating; there is a subtle difference between how biological men and women sound when they go, and this is something trans people have to be aware of to blend in the bathroom.
The most important thing I can share from my experience is to be calm and relaxed. If you are overly anxious, it will be picked up on, and other people will become uncomfortable. If you’re comfortable, its more likely noone will pay enough attention to you to even start questioning your gender.
Some readers may wonder why all this is necessary. Its just peeing, why must it be so complicated? The truth though, is that it can be very dangerous. Since bathrooms are gendered space, any obvious trans people may be seen as an invader. Someone may want to prove the sex of a trans person. Some may feel violated just by our presence in their gendered space. There is often only one exit, so a trans person can be trapped easily. Not only that, but attacks from conservative groups paint trans people in bathrooms as “Men in dresses who are after your daughters.” In fact, bathroom-based attacks are very common amongst transphobic and homophobic groups and individuals. This has created a culture of anxiety and fear for trans people who wish to use the bathroom.
I always try to turn difficult moments about my transition into learning moments, either for myself or to educate the people around me. However, in such a strongly gendered place, it helps to know some tricks to blend in. Choosing your battles is another important lesson for all transgender people.


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  • January 2013
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