Using The Women’s Locker Room as a Trans Woman

Photo courtesy Tom (Trey) Allen III (https://goo.gl/hNBXFg)

I discovered that I am a transgender woman a few months back. After some denial, I finally accepted it and started transitioning. Being transgender can be a very lonely journey but thankfully I found the /r/asktransgender subreddit and started reading it religiously. Apart from other things, I learned that Portland, Oregon is considered by many as a trans paradise. Curious, I decided to spend a month there and find out what the deal is. I am happy to tell you that the deal is real — there is a lot of (trans)gender acceptance in the city. From all-gender welcoming businesses to great meetups, there is a lot to get excited about in Portland. Being in Portland truly helped me accept myself as a transgender.

While in Portland, I stayed at a wonderful AirBnb in SE Hawthorne area. My host, Fortis introduced me to the lovely Yoga Union community wellness center. I signed up for their two-week trial and started going there regularly. Apart from the great sessions, they offer an inclusive environment I had only dreamed about. I used the women’s locker room there for the first time. No questions asked! I didn’t even have to tell them that I am transgender. Not only did the studio allow it, I was surprised that the women in the locker room couldn’t care less. I got no unfriendly stares or weird looks. I felt very welcome. I didn’t feel like a weirdo trying to sneak her way into the wrong locker room.

What surprised me however was how underwhelming the whole experience was. The bathroom debate makes it sound like there is a mysterious world behind the doors and entry to it opens up some kind of special privilege that must be carefully guarded. I can tell you that sadly, I didn’t find any such thing. It was just women using the locker room to change before a class, mindful of their and other’s privacy. The locker room is just a utility like many others that we take for granted every single day. In fact, coming out of the Portland bubble it feels strange that transgender people have to go through the dehumanizing experience of being forced to use the wrong restrooms or to justify our worthiness as our desired gender. For no good reason other than unsubstantiated fear. To compare the experience with Portland, back in my city in Colombia, my gym let me know that I can use the women’s locker room once I look more feminine! Needless to say, I am not super thrilled about a set of people judging if I am feminine enough.

Being in Portland opened my eyes to what a more progressive and accepting world would lo0k like. In many ways, I have always lived in bubbles (tech bubble for example) but Portland was the biggest social bubble I ever lived in. I hope one day the bubble grows to the whole world. Until that day, I, along in my community will keep educating others about basic human rights and dignity.