I have had bad experiences in restrooms. I have had someone look me up and down and I have watched their eyes make a decision about whether I was in the right place or not. I watched them land on “no.” I then watched them make choices about how to respond to this decision. Some responded with confusion, and they left the restroom. Some responded with anger, and they sternly told me I was in the wrong place. Some of them came close to violence. In all of these instances I apologized and went about my day.
All of these happened in men’s rooms.
I tried so hard to not make my cisgender sisters uncomfortable that I dragged my feet on using the proper restroom for as long as I could be safe doing so. I continued using men’s rooms long after the threshold where I could no longer pass as a cisgender man,
And I look at this discussion and I see a lot of folks arguing in very good faith about the truths of the matter, right? I see information about the lack of dangers of trans women in the women’s room. I see appeals to how dangerous men’s rooms are to us. Trans women are women, we say. Of course we belong in the women’s room.
But I think all of that furthers the idea that this conversation is worth having — and it’s just not. It was never about the bathrooms. I actually really feel for the women who think I’m invading their space. I hate that they hate me, I hate that. It breaks my heart that they’re afraid of me.
It’s not about bathrooms and it never was. It never will be. And I don’t think people who want to argue about this are going to be swayed or convinced by any amount of evidence or logic. I do think we can speak to the audience of folks watching us talk with them. First these people have to let go of that fear, then they learn tolerance, then they learn acceptance, they might even eventually learn compassion and love for us. But our first step is the fear, and we need to expose it for as radical, offensive, and unrealistic as it is.
I think questions help.
What is it that makes you afraid of me? What leads you to believe I would hurt you? Is it because I look different than you? Is it because of how I grew up? Is it the shape of my body? Have you been assaulted by a trans person? Can you show me where someone has? How does that compare to the number of assaults women already endure in these spaces? You seem very sure that this is a problem, can you show me evidence that I should believe that?
And so on. Because what these people are afraid of isn’t me. They are afraid of a story they’ve told themselves about who I am, because it’s a story that gives them power.
They think they have something I want. They think that they are arbiters of who is a woman or not. They want me to want their approval, that badge of womanhood that says “no no, I’m allowed to be here.” And they relish in denying me that, because finally, for once in their lives they have power over someone. So much of their politics is about victimization and the way they’ve been abused by men. Now they see a sub-class of “men” who want what they have and they love saying “no.” I haven’t earned it. I wasn’t born into this. I don’t endure as they do, and how could I? And by using that power this way, to try to paint womanhood as this desirable thing that you just have to be lucky enough to be born with, but that they have to dispense to you, they have revealed themselves to be the monsters.
They’re not worth arguing with. I’ll ask them questions. I’ll try to build a bridge, but I don’t waste my breath arguing with them anymore. Arguments are for people who have a point — and they don’t have one. The very act of having that discussion gives them validity and power and I refuse to let them have that from me.