Music hall stuff, huh? Trans women running round the twon centre looking for a loo to pee in. And at first reading, i bet that sounds like the promising set-up to a joke.
Until you think about it. Really think about it.
Because i have had life easy. As have any trans folk in the UK who started to transition in the past two or three years.
Imagine, if you will, a world in which you could not leave the house in the confident knowledge that there would be toilet facilities “out there” that you could make use of without being threatened, either with violence or arrest. Sound grim? Yep. You end up with two, maybe three strategies if you are trans.
1. Don’t go out.
2. Go out and learn to “hold it”.
3. Go out and risk arrest/violence every time you need to pee.
You think i jest? Just this year, a trans woman who used the ladies in Baltimore was assaulted and left unconscious on the floor for her pains. Not that many years back, trans women attempting to use the loo in the UK regularly faced similar threats.
There was the infamous Trafalgar Square incident, in which a trans woman was sexually assaulted after being denied access to the women’s loos. And over the years any number of histories of simialr happening to trans women – and men – who dare to pee in the appropriate space (for them).
It didn’t help that even the police were largely ignorant of the legal position, which seems to be, mostly, post the Equality Act (despite the fears of some critics) that a transgender individual, defined as an individual undergoing or starting to undergo treatment for gender dysphoria, has as close as possible a right to use the facilities appropriate to their identified gender.
Which is not quite what the police told me a couple of years back when, unaware of the legalities of my position, i sought advice. (Basically, they just didn’t know).
Nowadays, and for a long time since, i have quite confidently used the ladies – and had no probs in doing so.
Still, it leaves me with the most enormous respect for those who transitioned in the UK before this simple and – now – obvious legal support was in place. Not that all is plain sailing: there are still places which resist trans attempts to use the loo.
One friend responds to such bars with a simple threat of direct action: tell me where i’m supposed to pee…or i’ll just pee here, now (usually mid-pub). Unreasonable? No. Because being denied that basic right is humiliating, uncomfortable and, at base, a major obstacle to trans folk taking part in community life.
Its also a major reason why i probably won’t be going to the US any time soon. Here’s just the latest in a long list of disgraceful american actions on this front: in this case, a trans woman barred from going to school because she used the “wrong” restroom…
Why? What on earth do they think she might do in there?
No. I am used to how the law works in the UK. Know what i am allowed to do…and am happy that at some time soon i’ll get my gender recognition certificate and henceforth be a woman for all legal purposes.
And i remain horrified by the fact that in places like much of the US, not only would i face violence for the simple fact of needing to pee – but that violence might equally be perpetrated by the police. Too many stories of even post-op trans women being removed from restrooms at gun point. One instance of a trans man being tasered.
Thanks. But no thanks. On the bathroom front, the UK seems to be light years ahead of the states.