Being transgender in a Microsoft bathroom
It’s November, 2008. I just started what I call the ‘awkward’ phase of being a transsexual.
Like most people, I had a job. I worked at Microsoft as a software developer. Also, like most people, I needed to use the bathroom.
I’d like to share with you one of the first exchanges after going ‘full-time’ as a woman, in the Microsoft Ladies’ room:
Unknown woman: *surprise* Hey, you’re not supposed to be in here.
Me: You obviously weren’t at the meeting. Actually, I am supposed to be in here. My name is *female name*.
Unknown woman: *thoughtful pause* Oh. Welcome to the team.
I honestly didn’t think it was a big thing then, and nobody else did either. Today, we seem to think transgendered people in bathrooms is the end of the world as we know it.
Like many apocalypses, this one is complete and utter bullshit. Let me trans-splain’ it to you.
Being transgender is also a process.
We all have to be ourselves. There’s no one else we can be. For transgender people, this can take a lot of effort, including a lot of soul-searching, therapy, medicine, and sometimes surgery. It’s a multiple year long process at least, which I will try to roughly outline.
Phase I — The closet. Many transgender people live for years with feelings that something is wrong, and that they want to do something, but feel prevented from action for any number of reasons. They may dress in private or with their trusted partners and friends.
Phase II — The awkward phase. Someone may be living part-time or full-time as their preferred gender. They may or may not be taking hormones to alter their physical appearance. Many times people will recognize that you are transgender, or at least that something is different, and may give you any number of strange, rude, and possibly violent reactions.
Phase III — Stealth. For many this is the holy grail of being a transsexual. It means that people see you as your preferred gender without question. For many transsexual people, the whole point of the journey was to get to the point where people stop giving you grief.
Awkward bathroom conversations.
Let’s have some common sense bathroom conversation.
Having been in both, there’s really no difference between a men’s and women’s room.
Both have a toilet. You go into a stall, and do your business. If you’re at a urinal, they are usually spaced with little walls, and if it’s not, it’s a faux pas to look. For some reason, nobody thinks we should outlaw when men look at each other’s junk while peeing.
If you visited a national park during national park week, you’ll know that many of the bathrooms out in the wild are unisex, and usually you’re so happy to find one that you don’t care how bad it smells, let alone what gender it is.
The point is privacy. You want to do your business in private from other people, even people of your own gender, even when they are in the same bathroom.
So if the bathrooms aren’t fundamentally different, and you can’t see anyone’s genitals, who cares?
Naked in school is not cool.
Being naked is a very vulnerable state of mind. When you’re transgender, being naked can bring on a full out panic, especially when other people see.
Recently Bill O’Reilly in a piece said some disgusting things about transgender children in school in public showers. I don’t think this has ever happened, nor will it ever happen. He talks about what if a transgendered student would shower with his 4 daughters, and be naked, and how that would be a terrible thing.
My favorite line is “You’re thinking about this from the transgendered person’s point of view.” It’s called empathy, and it’s part of being human.
You know what the transgender person is thinking? Please just don’t look at me.
At school, the “common sense” thing would be privacy. Why do kids have to see each other naked at all?
No naked, no problem right? Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll invent one, because…
The problem isn’t me, it’s you.
The problem is not with transgendered people. The real problem is that people feel uncomfortable being around us. We’re different. We’re rare. We stick out like a sore thumb. Our mere existence challenges your sense of order and the way things should be.
People hate that. People fear anything different, it makes them lash out, many times violently.
I get it. You don’t like me, and you want to make my life as miserable as possible because you think it will make you feel better. It’s as American as apple pie or being a New Yorker.
Like with other minority groups, you’ll work hard to spread lies and hatred. You’ll pass laws to limit my rights and my legal recourse. You’ll make it a struggle for me to live, just because you feel like somehow I’m taking something from you.
The media, feeding on this idiotic frenzy, will run through its standard playbook. Like with blacks and gays in recent history, we will be called everything from lesser people, criminals, sex offenders, and anything else people hate. Not because it’s true. Knowing the background of our lawmakers, I could see where they could get confused.
How did we get here?
Well, it started when some people decided that common sense was to write down that it’s illegal to discriminate against people based on their gender identity. Then various state governments, out of any number of made up reasons, said it’s okay to hate transgendered people.
I’m glad President Obama stepped in. As a constitutional lawyer, he knows that America is not about protecting the majority’s right to not feel awkward.
It’s about protecting the rights of the people, and especially the minority. My ‘right’ to exist (and poop) trumps your right to not like me. It’s as simple as that.
For the kids out there who are unlucky enough to have troubles with their gender, I think school should be a safe place for them. Because hate can wait.
PS — Obama, if you want to have dinner, let me know. I’m sure the NSA can find me.
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