“Let me say right now for the record: I'm still gonna be here asking this world to dance. Even if it keeps stepping on my holy feet.”
—Andrea Gibson in their poem “The Nutritionist” (YouTube)
cw: trans-antagonistic behavior
They told me I was a “girl” when I was born, and every day after that. I tried so hard to be that, for so long. But I've been out of place in “women's” bathrooms my whole life—it’s usually the gasp; the horrified stare; the obvious double-checking the sign on the door. Sometimes it's, “What are you doing in here!?” or “Get the hell out of the women's bathroom!” A dozen times I’ve been physically handled, shoved out the door, or groped roughly by women trying to “prove” their point.
Entering a sex-segregated bathroom requires courage, every single time. My heart races. My mouth dries out. I lower my head, move as fast as I can, pitch my voice high if I have to speak. Although I’m clear it doesn’t work, I try to put on emotional armor in an attempt to protect myself.
Last fall, at a concert, I was preparing to use the bathroom and when I saw the all-gender restroom sign, I grinned wide and exhaled.
In the bathroom, a woman gave me that horrified stare I know so well and half-screeched, “This is the women’s bathroom!”
“This is actually an all-gender bathroom,” I responded, hoping we could end it there. I'm kind of glad I don't remember the rest, only that it hurt more because I thought I was safe. I went outside for the rest of intermission and cried the tears I needed to cry. (I’m grateful not to mind crying in public.)
My humanity is not up for debate, and neither is yours, I imagine saying to the stranger in the bathroom. I also imagine saying, I wish for you the sensitivity and grace to take ten seconds before you enter future bathrooms to remind yourself you could encounter someone non-binary or gender-bendy. I invite you to remember how much courage it takes for them to be there at all. I invite you to simply assume that everyone in the bathroom knows where they are.
May we breathe into a moment of gentling. . . May we whisper to each other of belonging—of I belong and you belong and we belong, just as we are. Amen.