Monday, November 11, 2013

Dear Transphobic Fearmongers: This Is My Locker Room Story

Trigger Warning: Detailed description of gender-dysphoric experiences.

 I used a group locker room today in a city that just had transgender-protecting legislation withdrawn (pending hopeful better success later) due to alleged swarms of community responses frantically worrying that it would mean trans people would be in their restrooms and locker rooms.  This is a frustrating development as somebody who was raised fully believing I lived in a community that had at least a shred of decency.

The fact that I did, in fact, use a group locker room on the same day I learned of this was a coincidence, but a telling one.  Cis (non-trans for those not in the know) people thrown into a frantic, ignorant haze spouting bullshit about trans-protecting legislation inviting rapists into women's restrooms are predictable and tiring and entirely ignore the fact that we already use these venues without incident every fucking day.

This fervor isn't about me.  I am a well-passing, mostly-stealth transsexual man, meaning people don't regularly realize I have a female history... and those that do figure it out don't bring it up.  Trans women as well as trans people who do not have the privilege to allow them the medical care necessary to integrate as I have (also known as "non-passing") and non-binary trans people will inevitably get the brunt of this ignorance.  They always do.  Think, for instance, about the transgender child (yes, child) who is being harassed and assumed a predator by grown-ass-adults in Colorado for using a locker room.

Still, because it's topical in that I did just use a group locker room today, I'd like to give you a little taste of how that went.
  1. I walked in the locker room with my duffel bag and tried four lockers before I found an empty one, averting my glance from the naked men changing around me because I don't want them to think I'm checking them out--just in case they're homophobic--and I don't want them to get too good a look at my still-feminine eyes.
  2. I shove my duffel bag in the locker as quick as I can and pull out my gym clothes, taking them to the changing rooms or--if those aren't empty--a bathroom stall.
  3. Even though the doors lock, I stand facing away from the door just in case somebody tries to get in and the lock fails, so if they see me naked they only see me from the back.
  4. I go and work out, almost constantly worrying that my binder (the garment I use to conceal my breasts) is too loose and that people will notice, or that it's too tight and will cause me to pass out.  The latter is no small thing because I personally know people--including other trans men--who have had medical personnel stop working on them when they see their anatomy.
  5. I return and decide whether or not I am going to shower.  About half the time I will decide the vulnerability is not worth it and I will just go home.  Today I opted to shower.
  6. Unlike the changing rooms, it does not lock, so I put a towel over the top bar so people know there is somebody in there.  I hang my duffel bag in the shower with me, risking it getting wet to avoid being too far from my clothing.
  7. As is the case in the changing rooms, I am likely to stare at the back wall just in case somebody comes in.  I shower as quickly as possible.
  8. Before I pull my towel off of the bar, I always place a pair of shorts or something so there is always something over the top bar.  I do not go even a short second with nothing proving that the shower is occupied.
  9. I pull on all of my clothing in the shower, because the short walk from the shower to the changing room is too risky even if I wrap myself in a towel.
  10. I leave the locker room.
  11. I get home and find that a bunch of people wrote my city's lawmakers about how scared they are of me in their locker rooms because they were that infuriated by the prospect that maybe I should have a right to fair housing like every other human being should have in theory.
By this point there is something you should have figured out:  Using public single-sex venues like locker rooms and restrooms is terrifying for trans people.  In this whole discourse, people spend so much time frantically theorizing about how unsafe cis people will allegedly be.  What's lost is that trans people have terrifying experiences because of how we expect cis people to treat us if they find out.

I have a friend who will sit on the toilet and wait for everybody to leave before he takes a piss because he's worried the fact that he's sitting is going to out him.  I know somebody else who repeatedly dropped out of her college gym class rather than share locker rooms with cis people because she was so terrified.  There are inumerable trans people who have been beaten up in locker rooms and restrooms just for being there.  Where are these stories?  Why are we so hellbent on focusing on something that might happen in some transphobic cis person's dirty fantasies when there are real stories like mine and theirs that happen every day?

Because we're already using these venues, every day, mostly without incident until some gaggle of transphobic "think of the children" assholes and concern trolls decides to make an issue of it.  And when it comes to trans people using single-sex venues, the only people who really have to worry are us.