What It’s Like to Use a Public Bathroom While Trans
For most people, going to a public restroom is no big deal. Aside from long lines at the women’s restroom or a dirty stall in the men’s, they never have to think about it.
For trans people, however, using a public bathroom is complicated, and often dangerous. A 2013 survey from UCLA’s Williams Institute found that nearly 70 percent of trans people had experienced negative interactions in public facilities — from dirty looks to snide comments to physical violence.
A bill recently passed by the North Carolina state legislature put the issue of trans restroom access back in the national spotlight. On March 23rd, Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law HB 2, which effectively made it illegal for trans people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. The legislation also overturns existing nondiscrimination ordinances in the state. The passage of HB 2 follows the failure of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) last November, which was voted down after conservative critics argued it would give “sexual predators” a free pass to prey on children. To date, there’s never been a single reported case of a trans person attacking someone else in a public facility.
Rolling Stone talked to trans people across the country about the North Carolina law, as well as their experiences with using public restrooms. Here’s what they had to say.
Raleigh, North Carolina
On running into the bathroom to avoid harassment:
“Early in my transition, it was hard because I didn’t blend in well as a female, but I really didn’t look like a male either. So I didn’t get to use any bathrooms. When I did, I had to sprint into it and wait in a stall until everyone was gone, and then run out as fast as I could.
“You stand outside the bathroom for maybe a minute or two to make sure no one is coming out or no one is coming in. Then you go inside and if you hear someone, you just look down and hope they don’t look at your face…. You run into the stall and you lock the door as fast as you can, and then you do what you have to do. If you hear someone walk in, or you hear someone else in there, you have to wait until they leave. Once you hear that they are gone, you can run out. Washing your hands is a difficult situation because it takes time, so hopefully you brought disinfectant.”
On the idea that trans people pose a threat to others in public bathrooms:
“It’s funny because I’m afraid of [non-trans people], and I think I’m more afraid of them than they are of me. It’s a strange feeling to have someone who can hurt you so severely — emotionally, physically and even economically — and they’re afraid of you. It’s like the lion being afraid of the mouse.”
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