Policing Gender through Bathrooms

I have been called sir more times than I’ve been called ma’am.

When I popped out of my mother the nurse was able to tell her clearly that I was a girl. She also predicted I’d be a dancer based on my leg length.

I reached 5’10” by the time I was 13. The only person taller than me in middle school was the principal (he’s your pal!) At 18 I was just shy of 6′ and so skinny I had little to no figure.

For a variety of reasons I wore baggy tshirts that hid what figure I had. I tied my hair back in a plain pony tale. I didn’t shave my legs. And, thanks to genetic quirks handed down by a French Canadian great grandmother, I can grow a teenage boy’s beard.

I wore heels to my wedding and occasionally to the opera. I like dresses but jeans are easier if I have to climb a fence. You never know when you’re going to have to climb a fence. I grew up in the country riding cows and climbing fences. Nobody taught me how to shave my legs. I have the scar on my shin to prove it.

So I got called sir a lot until the person behind the register did a double take and apologized. I told them not to worry. What did it matter? What’s between my legs only matters if you plan on having sex with me.

It didn’t even matter when it came to going to the bathroom. If the girls’ room was full and the boy’s room empty I’d go in the boys’ room. The sign on the wall is just a warning. Enter here and you may see someone peeing standing up! Enter here and you may see a bloody tampon in the trash!

Lately people have been freaking out that someone of the “Wrong gender” may be using the bathroom. They don’t talk about my popping into the men’s room or a man using the women’s room or mothers bringing their sons into the women’s room or fathers bringing their daughters into the men’s room. What they talk about is people who are “wrong” about their gender using a bathroom. This is about a man “masquerading as a woman” trying to get into the women’s bathroom.

So how do you spot a man “masquerading as a woman?” Is he tall? Does he have stubble? Does he not wear heels or makeup or dresses? Sounds like me.

Am I supposed to carry my birth certificate with me everywhere in case I need to use the bathroom? You know you’re not supposed to carry your birth certificate around right? Identity theft is a problem too.

Who has the right to ask if I’m in the right bathroom? Who’s going to arrest me? What will the charges be? How often will I have to go to court with a note from my doctor saying that all my lady bits are the original package I was born with? Should I just start wearing dresses and no underwear and throw up my skirts every time someone questions my gender? How close a look is close enough to tell? Do I get to go pee first?

“This isn’t about you! This is about transgender people.” (Say both transgender people and the people who hate them.)

This is actually about everyone. The bathroom bill set up to target transgender people makes it so everyone’s genitals are under the microscope. Are you masculine enough? Are you feminine enough? Every person you meet in the bathroom has the right to question this now. Sure you may look like a guy but the bulge in your pants is pretty pitiful so I need to see your birth certificate. You think you’re ok because unlike me you can’t grow facial hair and you do wear dresses? Someone’s going to think you’re trying too hard. Meanwhile how long before a divoced dad gets taken to court because he took his little girl into the bathroom because she had to potty and is too young to go alone?

So let’s just skip past the moral question of whether or not it’s right to ask to see a person’s private bits to make sure they’re in the “right” bathroom. This law is not enforceable. It simply creates chaos and panic and excuses for bigots to beat up on people who may or may not be what they hate.

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