So, during the course of my transition, I’ve really only ever had 1 negative experience while using a public restroom. It occurred in early January of this year at a big chain truck stop in Atoka Oklahoma. I’d been to this place before without incident, so I wasn’t anticipating any trouble. Boy was I wrong.
I do my business, go to wash my hands, and there’s a female employee standing at the restroom entrance telling me “You need to leave.” To which I say “What seems to be the problem?” She scoffs, doesn’t answer the question, then repeats her demand; I repeat my question. By now I’m drying my hands and ready to leave, exiting the women’s restroom I am greeted by a male manager. I ask him “what seems to be the problem?” I know I’m not going to get his response exactly correct, but this is as best as I can remember it. “It is our policy that men use the men’s room and women use the women’s room. If there is an issue, with that, we can provide you access to a private shower by request.” Somehow or another he literally asked “were you born a man or a woman?” I wasn’t prepared to let this man strip me of my dignity, my response was “do know how offensive that is?” He then reiterates the “policy.” Since I service this location as a vendor I wasn’t going to lay into him, I had already done my job for them so I ignored the crap about the restroom, pulled out a delivery ticket and told him to sign it. Then I leave; though not before saying “my name is Kira.”
Now, I’m sure there are literally thousands of similar stories in the trans community like this so I don’t want to act like this situation is even remotely close to the embarrassment others have to deal with on a daily basis. Instead I want to look at this differently, because after all these months, I realize how truly destructive these aggressions can be.
As my wife can attest, following this incident I suffered for months with what I could only quantify as post traumatic stress. As a truck driver, restrooms really aren’t something that’s always readily available to you. So, even if you have to pee a little, you’d better go if the option is present. The restroom rejection lead me to rethink every place to pee. For a time, I became so fearful of trying to use public restrooms that I’d hunt for the most discreet place to pee on the side of the road. As if peeing on the side of the road isn’t also dehumanizing and (for me) dysphoric.
During this same period, I had many nights where I was plagued by nightmares of this incident, and what little sleep I tend to get got whittled down by worries. Sometimes I’d get about 1 or 2 hours of sleep only to be woke by this event playing out in my head. Ultimately I would not be able to fall back to sleep. After one such night, in the early morning hours before sunrise, I got in my rig and set my sights on Lawton Oklahoma. Approximately half way there I nodded off briefly. When I snapped my head back up, I was traveling 60 MPH and about 100 feet from plowing straight into a guardrail! You want to talk about a sobering experience?
It was after this instance I had a bit of an existential moment. You see, had I wrecked, had I died, the people who told me I didn’t belong in that restroom would have been indirectly responsible for that whole situation. It’s something they would never know they’d done, they’d never feel guilty about it, and even if they could trace this path of causality, would they even care?
Now perhaps I’m just a sensitive person (hello, I’m a woman), but this has got me thinking. What courses of action have I done in my life which may have caused someone else to suffer this much? This might lend itself to concepts of predestiny, or manifest destiny. If you dwell too much on such thoughts it could drive you mad. While I’m not philosophy major, my takeaway has been forbearance with the world and people as a whole.
So what does this mean to me? In general I do not wish my words or actions to be so unrestrained as to bring harm to another whom literally has done no wrong.
Now in comparison to the story I’ve just told, the players still have no clue what they did, and in their minds they may have even felt justified. But if I realize that my actions have the potential to have such a negative impact on someone whom is actually guilty of doing no harm, then are those actions justified? The wording there is critical because we are all judges, and we can scrutinize anything to find fault if we choose. The question is, what is accomplished by that judgement if what we’re basing that judgement on literally causes no harm?
We see this behaviour in action all around us, and for the life of me I don’t know why. Take the simple notion of a transwoman trying to pee. This is a situation which causes no harm. However, the action of telling that transwoman she cannot pee does cause harm. It’s as though society in general has become so conditioned to finding something wrong in the day-to-day lives of others that they seek to impose some form of dominion over another. But what’s the goal? There is nothing gained by being an asshole for the sake of being an asshole.
This action is repeated a billion times a day in so many facets beyond the restroom. If anything the internet has made these sociopathic tendencies even greater. I see those political, national, racial, and personal trigger words and I know it’s gonna be a shit show. I’ve fallen for this trap before, but like a pious Christian, it’s wise to remember that responding to such hate with holy-than-thou retorts quickly becomes self defeating.
If ones goal in life is to leave this place better than when we found it, then we’re not going to get there by nitpicking every single nuance of everyone else’s life. At some point you need to realize that while it’s easy to direct hate, fear, and anger at another, the most beneficial thing is to look inside ourselves and realize that the flaws we’re really wanting to target are the ones within us.
It is only through your understanding of yourself that you will find peace.
That being said, I do not profess to have found a new level of enlightenment. What I do realize is that, I have not been promised any established allotment of life. Therefore, it runs counter to my fulfillment of life to spend it actively trying to make others feel bad about their own. It literally takes zero effort to treat another person as you would want to be treated.
In the word’s of Laura Jane Grace, “I’ve got no judgement for you, come on and ache with me.”
P.S. I sleep better these days. Potty fear doesn’t rule me, I pee wherever damn well please.
P.P.S. Turned out that the manager at that truck stop was pulling policy out his ass. That company has a trans inclusive hiring policy, and after I bugged them about their policy on Trans individuals using their restroom, this is the response I got:
Our policy for all customers and employees is that the transgender individual should use the restroom for the gender that they identify with/feel comfortable with. If the transgender person does not feel comfortable using one of the public restrooms, our employee should offer for that person to use the restrooms in one of our private shower rooms.
Kira Wertz (she/her) is a married Transgender woman who openly identifies as pansexual. She is a top writer in LGBTQ for Medium, Editor of The Transition Transmission, and Professional Truck Driver. Kira is a strong advocate for Transgender rights, especially the rights of Transgender youth; she is a public speaker and panelist, and can often be found helping her local Transgender community. You can connect with Kira on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.