TS/TG People and the Politics of Public Places to Pee

Geez…  The last few days my news feeds have been filled with various stories about TS/TG people and the problems with finding a place to pee.

This comes at a time when I have also observed more and more public places having gender neutral single occupancy restrooms which say “Occupied” when the door is locked rather than having the international symbols for male/female on the doors.  The other accommodation is the third restroom with the door wide enough to permit the motorized wheelchair or scooter to pass through it.  This restroom often includes the diaper changing station.

Indeed many of the articles are about colleges and the like making accommodations and designating restroom as gender neutral.

I don’t have a stake in this fight.  I can feel empathy though as I can remember the concerns I had prior to coming out.  I was terrified of using public men’s rooms, especially in San Francisco.  I don’t know if it is still a common practice but in the pre-Stonewall days plain clothes cops used to patrol the rest rooms and arrest obviously gay men.  Of course the cops always said the gay men groped them or solicited them, but cops like like rugs.

When I worked at the office in the early 1970s I heard that sisters using certain store’s rest rooms were subject to arrest, but never actually met anyone or took a complaint from anyone who had actually been subjected to arrest.

Perhaps it goes with what some call passing privilege but this isn’t something I thought much about.  When I transitioned we had cards issued by the SF Center for Special Problems and those were supposed to keep us from being arrested for using the public restrooms.

Some of my T to M friends mentioned their restroom issues when I was hanging out with them back in the 1990s. Their issues were needing a stall and not really being able to stand and pee at a urinal.

I’ve worked in some big box stores and have had customers complain about the difficulties regarding motorized wheel chairs.  Other customers have children with them of the other sex and are concerned about leaving them alone while using the restroom.

This is all about equal access to public restrooms for all, including not just trans folks but thoose who are mobility challenged, those needing changing stations for infants and for parents with children of the other sex.

It sounds like a stupid issue, but it isn’t for people who simply need a safe place where they can use the restroom without having their dignity shredded or being forced to face danger.

This isn’t just an American issue and people are working to make it better.

WPIX Orange County Fla:  UCF adds gender-neutral restrooms

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

Students at the University of Central Florida will see a different kind of restroom around campus.

The new facilities aren’t just only for men or only for women; they’re marked as gender neutral.

“I wouldn’t want to go to a bathroom that I don’t feel comfortable in,” one student told WFTV.

Nine of the gender-neutral restrooms have been added around campus.

The gender-neutral restrooms are essentially family bathrooms that have new signs. Some of the new restrooms feature a man and woman on the placard outside the door.

The Argus UK:  New Rottingdean toilets go ‘gender neutral’

By Tim Ridgway
Feb. 14, 2013

Unisex toilets are to be rebranded as gender neutral by “politically correct” council chiefs.

A £140,000 refurbishment of the facilities in Rottingdean seafront started this week.

But emails seen by The Argus indicate bosses “wish to promote the term gender neutral” when discussing the block that will be open to everyone regardless of their sex.

Supporters claim it will make it more accessible for those who do not identify with the male-female binary.

Boston Herald:  Mass. Ed Dept issues rules on transgender pupils

February 15, 2013

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Education on Friday issued directives for handling transgender students, including allowing them to use the bathrooms or play on the sports teams that correspond to the gender with which they identify.

The guidance was issued at the request of state board of education to help schools follow the state’s 2011 anti-discrimination law protecting transgender people.

During the same time frame the above articles were published there were also articles about sisters getting hassled for using public rest rooms.

Pink News UK: Trans woman student abused and shoved out of toilets at Leeds University

The Advocate:  ‘It’s The Women’s Room!’ and Other Bathroom Complications

The Lariat:  Former Saddleback student returns as transgender, is told not to go into female restroom

Even with accommodation non-discrimination laws that protect TS/TG people, gender queer or gender ambiguous people can be subjected to harassment on the part of both the public and the police. If someone is in that position: Personal safety comes first.

Don’t endanger yourself to make a point, that list of people we memorialize in November always has too many names. Don’t do something that will get you arrested.  If it is at a school or place of work take it up with management.

It isn’t my issue, but I learned from many years of not having an automobile to plan my trips using the safest routes and well lighted bus stops.  Better to plan things out and avoid danger while fighting for your rights in situations where you aren’t facing physical harm.

If it is any consolation TS/TG people aren’t the only folks facing this.

Gay Star News: Lesbian bride who Fox News mistook for a man speaks out

Stephanie Figarelle, the handsome bride and half of the Alaska-based couple, won a contest to become the first same-sex couple to marry at the iconic Empire State Building last year.

Currently on her honeymoon with her wife Lela, she took to her Facebook to say how she feels about the internet laughing at Fox News’ mistake.

Figarelle writes: ‘Yes, I’m aware that I look like a dude. I have known this my entire life- I’ll prove it by sharing baby photos sometime. I’ve gotten bullied, hit on by gay dudes and hot “straight” girls, seen the inside of both male and female bathrooms.

‘Gotten yelled at for going into the women’s restroom- but never the men’s. I’ve had to tell my parents, grandparents and the rest of my family that I am gay, ultimately facing their rejection. Luckily, since I’ve looked like a dude since birth, they all accepted me with open arms since they really weren’t surprised…

Be assertive about your right to live with dignity but stay safe.

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