Butch Please: Butch in the Bathroom

BUTCH PLEASE is all about a butch and her adventures in queer masculinity, with dabblings in such topics as gender roles, boy briefs, and aftershave.

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Header by Rory Midhani


I was at the sink, washing my hands. The woman entered the bathroom behind me. ‘Entered’, actually, is a strong word. She opened the door and stood in the doorframe with her elbow locked to brace the heavy door away from her. I was looking at her through the mirror while I counted to 30 in my head. She made eye contact with me, her mouth open slightly as if there was a word just there, pressed behind the neat row of her front teeth, resting like a mint on her tongue. She looked me up and down, shook her head like she was clearing her ears, and then turned to check the sign on the door. Ah, I thought.

The woman left, but someone else returned while I was drying my hands: the manager, with the woman a few feet behind her, standing at a noticeable distance. The manager tore into the bathroom like she was part of a high-stakes bust, and looking back, I can’t imagine what she expected to find there. A hulking specimen of hairy-knuckled terror, cleaning his nails with a switchblade? Women cowering in the corner, away from the greasy man trying to lift their skirts? I’m sure I was a disappointment to her, gawking from the row of busted hand dryers at the wall, my knobby knee exposed from a new tear in my jeans.

“Oh, darn,” she said. She looked with extreme confusion from me to the rest of the empty bathroom, as if the culprit was actually hiding in a stall, feet on the toilet. But then our eyes met again, her brow furrowing and unfurrowing with some hint of understanding. This time she was turning red. “Sorry.”

“It’s…no, I’m sorry.” I shrugged, blushing even harder than she was. I raced to exit the bathroom, nearly running into the woman outside. She made a noise at me, the kind of disapproving tut that old ladies used to make at my friends when we’d start whispering during Mass. I couldn’t look at her, but I know that she finally went in once I had gone out. The threat had been removed, so to speak.

Since my gender presentation is most often mistaken for a teenage boy, the thought of using public bathrooms is anxiety-creating for any number of reasons. I hate the second looks, the stares, those who are bold enough to ask me if I’m in the right place. The vitriol in the woman’s eyes when we made contact in the mirror — how did I inspire such a feeling in her, the same I’ve seen in others who did not want me in that space? At the same time, I feel guilty and ashamed that my presence in the women’s bathroom was read by this woman as a threat. I don’t want to make anyone feel unsafe or uncomfortable, but my very existence within that space had done exactly what I’d wanted to avoid. The fact she was so upset by my being there, maybe even fearful enough, that she needed to summon the manager to identify me and remove me, is scary to me; something I did not want to do to this woman. It reminds me of when I walk home at night, on constant alert for any threat, terrified when I see a masculine form moving towards me, and realize that I could be read in exactly that way by another person, especially a woman taught to fear a shape like mine.

I consider, then, my options. Should I have used the men’s room instead, a place where I would feel incredibly unsafe and anxious? This woman fetched the manager and made it known to me that she did not feel I was supposed to be there, but what would a man do if he recognized me as an outsider to the space? I know stories of violence like the lines on my palm. I carry them around in a balled up fist to remind me why I do not enter men’s spaces, why my masculinity is a ticket through certain doors, but never enough to be a safety net.

I’m not terribly fond of gendered spaces. Any place whose boundaries come with an act of definition is going to be a tricky one for a person whose identity is decidedly fluid. I say this knowing that I spent four years in a very intense boundary of gender; I attended a women’s college, which is its own strange and political brand of gendered space, one whose definition of woman is clearly different from my own, based on those of us who were allowed to enter and those who were not. It will always feel off to me that I could stay, a genderqueer person whose affinity to the label ‘woman’ did not match up with the expectations of my school, while someone who identifies as a woman could not, based solely on the difference between our genitalia. Somehow, my experiences with gendered spaces have always come down to the most private parts of myself and others, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Of course, at my women’s college, I often used the men’s bathroom. If I ran into the occasional student or professor, there was never an issue. The student might give me a one-over, checking to see if I’m whatever he thinks I am, but I didn’t feel any hesitation to shoot him a look back. The whole school, including that very bathroom, fell within the bounds of my gendered space, which meant that these men were the interlopers. In this bubble, I didn’t have to be anxious about what spaces I entered because the very nuanced definition of a women’s college included me, and I was safe to go where I pleased. Outside of the bubble, of course, things are very different.

I asked butch-identified folk to weigh in on their experiences in bathrooms, and very soon it became a chorus of awfully similar stories:

“Recently I was in a women’s washroom which was busy, and had a lineup. I left with a femme presenting person who was walking in front of me. We had to pass by the waiting lineup. There was a pair of women in the lineup and one of them looked at my companion with a smile, and then her face fell when she saw me. She said loudly to her friend, “Well, I thought that this was the women’s washroom, but apparently you can’t be sure what you’ll get these days.” “

“Most of the time people think I’m a guy and kindly try to redirect me. If not they won’t make eye contact with me, they get quiet when I walk in and I worry I’m making them feel unsafe, even if its due to some misconception that any masculine-presenting person is a predator. But I guess society teaches women that it’s better safe than sorry.”

“I’ve had three occasions where people have left the bathroom when they notice me washing my hands/leaving a stall/etc. and refuse to come back in until I’ve left. Also, I heard one person whispering not so quietly, wondering if I was allowed to be in there. It’s only happened a handful of times but it stays with me and gives me anxiety to enter busy ones for sure.”

“The funniest to me is when I’m standing in a line of women, after examining the ONLY MARKER that distinguishes the two rooms which is the stick figure with the DRESS ON IT, and I’m just standing there waiting in the absence of other men or urinals, and someone will still think to ask me if I’m in the right place. Like OH WHOOPS YOU’RE RIGHT, SHIT MY BAD. SORRY LADIES. I’ve got some good comebacks if anyone needs ‘em, though I’m rarely brave enough to use them. “Are you in the right place?” “Yeah, are you in the right decade?” “This is the Ladies” “Then maybe you should act like one.” BAZAM. I always think of them after-the-fact, though; after I’ve muttered something and slunked away humiliated, not making eye contact, only to spend the rest of the night stewing over it. And what gets me is that I really don’t believe that anyone could actually think that I would be in the “wrong place” – consciously or not, they’re policing my gender.”

“It’s a pretty regular experience for me: clients who walk into the bathroom I’m in always ask if they are in the right one, dressing rooms are consistently a place where I have to confront it, usually I just say “No, I go over here (walk to the women’s side)” when they tell me to go the men’s side. Also, at the gym, women won’t change near me, and I used to get asked to leave. I’m not bothered by it anymore, I get “sir’d” or “young man’d” daily so I’ve stopped paying as much attention. The worst of it was in high school gym and sports: changing in the locker room was synonymous with beating, usually by teammates.”

“I think a lot about how I act in bathrooms to prevent getting a negative reaction. I avoid looking at other people, especially making eye contact, because I worry about people thinking I’m checking them out. Or sometimes when I’m going into a bathroom, or passing someone while leaving, I do things that I think will make me be read as female, like sticking my chest out a little, or kind of smiling a little? It sounds silly, but it helps ease the anxiety. Getting misgendered, especially in bathroom situations, can sometimes put me in a negative place all day.”

“It’s weird because I get all this feedback in the women’s room that makes me sort of feel like I should be using the men’s room, but then I have this fear of not passing/potential more violent repercussions from men which is coming from a weird mixture of being a gender non-conforming queermo AND a traditional justification of separate bathroom spaces based on this “threatening men” stereotype. Like I would still be initially weirded out if I saw a man in the women’s room even though intellectually I know these separations are at their most fundamental arbitrary. Though obviously there are some social functions that have emerged for women to use these non-men spaces.”

The question, then, of what we do with bathrooms and other spaces that function along the binary is a very difficult one. Bathrooms are spaces of extreme vulnerability for gender non-conforming folk, but also to any identity where presentation is a factor. Even if you do identify as a woman or man, your ability to pass as that gender is crucial to your safety in a space where your choice to enter is a self-identifier. The fact that mandatory body functions are now tied to choosing the lesser evil, the space that will be less punishing, less dangerous should identity come into question, is a scary one for a whole faction of queer people. I wish I knew how to solve this issue, but I think so long as the binary exists and people feel compelled to enforce it and police those who do not comply, the problems will remain. Is that enforcement to be expected with gender-based violence, or is that a denial of the potential for binary-complying spaces to have their own issues? Where is it necessary to maintain adherence to gendered spaces, and where does that divide fall short and act as a disservice to its members?

In the meantime, how can we reduce our anxiety about entering gendered spaces? Resources like safe2pee provide mapped guides to the locations of unisex bathrooms. In my city of Philadelphia, new legislation states that any City-constructed building is required to include gender-neutral bathrooms, which reflects the trend on most university campuses and similarly liberal locales.

I still don’t know what to do when I enter a bathroom. I don’t know what reactions to expect, if I will make someone else feel unsafe or if I will be the one who is frozen from fear. My strategy is to remind myself after the experience that I’m a person, and a person who deserves to be safe and happy. And a person who deserves to pee, too.

Avatar of Kate

Hard-lovin' butch made of tears, sweat, and spit, in that order. Professional lonesome polecat. Kate is living proof that you can take the hillperson out of the mountains, but she's still probably going to run back to the mountains anyway. Kate prefers the trashy to the classy, and the tender to everything else. Full-time writer, part-time lover. Heart got so big and soggy that she had to cut off all her sleeves.

Kate has written 123 articles for us.

139 Comments

  1. Thumb up 7

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    Beautifully written piece about a terrible reality. “The fact that mandatory body functions are now tied to choosing the lesser evil, the space that will be less punishing, less dangerous should identity come into question, is a scary one for a whole faction of queer people.” That was so well said – it reminds me of the terrible choices oppression forces upon people. And it makes me angry – everyone deserves a safe place to pee!

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    As a trans woman I can certainly empathize with you. When I am outside of my “safe zone” I usually have incredible anxiety at the thought of having to use the bathroom.

    Where you said the woman left to get the manager? One might go get her husband to take care of the situation. I see guys say they would commit violence against someone who they thought was a man being in the restroom with their wife or daughter. Terrifying.

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    I really enjoyed this article. Thank you!
    I am a genderqueer individual who tends to oscillate between masculine-of-center boi and femmy fag-boi in presentation. It is comforting to know that I’m not the only one who is incorporating various techniques to keep people from freaking out in women’s bathrooms. Particularly on my more masculine-of-center days, when I use the women’s restroom, I avoid eye contact almost completely and if I’m feeling especially uncomfortable, I will even do some “primping” in the mirror to seem more “girly”. Even on my days when I think I look more feminine (my faggy-boi days), I will notice people looking me up and down in the mirror. It is a cause for anxiety for me, particularly when I’m not on campus, because then I’m away from the more liberal atmosphere. I have had a few altercations with people in bathrooms but fortunately, I have yet to have an actually hostile reaction. Basically, I just wanted to thank you for writing this, one, because it’s a great piece, and two, because it’s important for people to hear about these experiences. Again, thanks.

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    Thanks for this thoughtful, well written post.

    I am a trans woman I know certainly know what you are talking about! In the restroom I smile and try to be as unassuming and non-threatening as I can possibly be. I try to be invisible, but not so self conscious that it draws attention to me, and on and on. . .

    Should something so basic as using the toilet have to be so stressful?

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    I too am often mistaken for a teenage boy, and I’ve had my share of “this is the ladies’ room” remarks. I laugh it off because I really find these instances amusing, but I also understand if others experience them as uncomfortable. Usually I give them a “hey guess what, I’m gonna tell you a secret” wink and say “yes, and I’m a girl” and smile at them. I see no reason why I should feel ashamed just because in their black-and-white world I read as “boy”. It’s their problem, really, not mine and considering that I make a rather small teenage boy I don’t think I come across as particularly threatening.

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      This JUST happened to me yesterday. I went into a bathroom in the Houston airport, and the cleaning lady kept peeking around the corner to check me out while I was washing my hands. Finally, she asked “Are…you a woman?” An airport bathroom is hardly the place to discuss the nuances of gender identity, so I looked her in the eye, smiled, and replied “Last time I checked!” Another, older woman passing by turned to see, gave me a return smile with an eye roll and a head shake as if to say “you’re fine here.”

      I routinely get “sir”, “buddy”, “young man” or my new favorite: “boss”, but it’s amazing how something as simple as a smile can make you seem less threatening.

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    Hmmm…best/most awkward moment was probably standing in the very long line for the ladies’ with my mother at the intermission for Carmina Burana. I’m masculine-presenting pretty much all of the time and a woman turns around, sees me in my shiny new blazer and tie, and says, “Are you waiting for the bathroom?” And then of course it’s the cold sweats and the sweaty palms, and I have to mumble yes because I seriously need to pee and I can’t go to the guys’ with my mother watching. The woman smells my fear and gets a hard look in her eye and says, “The WOMEN’S bathroom?” And my mother leans around me and looks even scarier and says, “Yes, SHE IS.” And the woman realizes a sudden burning need to check her phone. My mother has come a long way since she found my first pair of boxers in the dryer.

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    I know this is super debatable but I don’t understand why we need two separate bathrooms in the first place. If there is a mile line to the ladies room, I’ll be the first to saunter into the men’s room. I know that people need safe spaces but generally speaking, it is COMPLETELY unnecessary to me.

    I think community would fix so many problems.

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        I do this too, but feel just a little weird about it. Which was definitely not helped by a recent restaurant visit in which apparently the door to the men’s room didn’t lock properly/at all, and some dude walked in on me and then proceeded to confusedly exclaim, very loudly, to his friend outside, “Dude, there was a GIRL in there!” (To add insult to injury, a staff member had seen me waiting for the women’s and actually encouraged me to just go ahead and use the men’s. Sigh.)

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      My response if people do more than startle is usually, in my best femme voice because my voice is very femme and with an aw-shucks smile, “you’re in the right spot; I’m just confusing!” I know I shouldn’t have to, but so far it’s always kept me safe. The best time was when I was going in and another butch was going out. The middle-class white suburban woman behind us was suddenly very, very confused, but she didn’t say anything because clearly there were more of us than there were of her…

      I was at a co-ed event at an all-women’s college a little while ago and to keep all the guys from having to go to the one floor with a single stall they just put a piece of paper over the bathroom signs that said “All Genders Welcome”. It was the easiest thing in the world. No problems, no discomfort, no one looking at me funny or checking the sign on the door.

      Then again, their weren’t urinals since all the bathrooms were built for women. I assume the actual reason for separate bathrooms is men’s discomfort with openly peeing in co-ed spaces and the “we prove we’re not gay by showing each other our genitals” social dynamics of urinals.

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      As someone who witnessed the aftermath of my father’s attempted violent assault on my mother, I *need* to have separate, women’s-only spaces for sleeping, peeing, changing, or any other space where I will be in a semi-naked/vulnerable state. In college, things such as my roommate bringing her boyfriend into our room at night and hearing a male voice next door while I’m trying to use the bathroom, are enough to send me into full-on, tear-filled, dry-heaving panic attacks. My college has men’s-only, women’s-only, and gender neutral housing and bathrooms. I’d support a similar system being implemented universally, so everyone can have a space that best fits their needs.

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        Not trying to dismiss your trauma, but this is sorta the same argument that was used for other types of segregation. Having a traumatic experience with a single individual doesn’t justify segregating all of society. I sincerely hope you are getting help for your PTSD.

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          Okay, wow, comparing gendered bathrooms to racial segregation? ‘Cause I know that’s where you’re going. Let’s not. Especially when you’re not a person of color.
          You’re being a little accusatory. And actually, completely dismissive of rape culture.
          Yes, I have no idea what it’s like to walk into a restroom and have people be scared of you. And that sucks. I get that. It really, really sucks and we need to deal with that. We need to teach people that there are many different ways to be female, we need to teach people about gender, etc etc etc. People need to expand their comfort zone when it comes to notions of gender. We need to do all of those things. We need to talk about these things.
          But to say that I’m just supposed to completely dismiss rape culture because “you just have unresolved PTSD” is completely ridiculous.
          I don’t know. I just think you’re kind of being incredibly insensitive.

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          You know where I’m going? Like you know me? Not really. Where I’m going is that gendered bathrooms aren’t the solution to sexual assault. Women get raped in other places too, and usually (2 out of 3) by someone they know. And gendered bathrooms don’t solve any of that or anything about rape culture.

          Lets keep group A out of Area B has never worked as a solution to any social problem. But it has created privileged spaces, and in the case of bathrooms, privileged places for cissexual people.

          I don’t think there’s any way to talk about this without sounding insensitive. I’m sorry I don’t believe gendered bathrooms prevent rape, in fact I think they might even make it worse due to how much privacy such bathrooms have. But privacy does not equal safety.

          Also, I’m not saying “you just have PTSD”, but that I’m pretty sure that gendered bathrooms are neither a cure or a treatment for PTSD. I’m sure that sounds insensitive to say, but there it is. If rape victims aren’t getting proper health care that they need, then I propose that maintaining gendered bathrooms isn’t a solution for that, but rather better health care.

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          Christ, people who bully survivors then claim they’re doing it all out of concern and because they want us to get “proper health care” are the absolute worst. Do you think anyone enjoys having PTSD? Do you think that if there was a way to make it go away, we’d prefer having to deal with the constant stress of organizing every moment of your life around panic attacks to feeling safe and being healthy?

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          Andrea, I’ve lived with someone with PTSD for years. I’ve lived with having to be aware of how I enter rooms. And I know it doesn’t solve much. When she got counseling, the number of times I accidentally startled her and got my head ripped off lessened.

          I’ve have also had to hear for years, decades, that the reason trans women aren’t allowed at the Michigan’s Women’s Fest is because trans women are all potential rapists. The same argument was used to ban gays from the military, and ban women from serving in certain situations.

          Calling what I’ve said here “bullying” diminishes the experience of people who have actually been bullied. I had panic attacks when I was a teenager because of being bullied in high school. What I’m doing here is called debating an issue. I have not called anyone names. I have not threatened anyone. But I’m also not going to treat people like they’re broken and can’t handle the slightest disagreement.

          So again, I’m going to say, gendered bathrooms don’t prevent rape nor treat PTSD. And I reject the rape culture that says men are inherent rapists and that’s why we need to segregate gender.

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          There is a huge difference between not wanting trans women in my space and not wanting MEN in my space. A massive difference. They should not be in the same thought. So saying that my argument is similar to those who don’t want trans women in women’s spaces is ridiculous.

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          For some reason I can’t reply directly to your most recent comment, so I’m posting my response up here. There is no widespread, valid, statistical evidence that demonstrates in anyway that trans women or gay people are more likely to be rapists than members of the average population — in fact, those two groups are *more* likely to be *victims* of violence than the general population. This is in stark contrast to well-documented evidence that 95+% of all rapes are committed by men, and that somewhere between 1/6 – 1/4 of women will experience an attempted or completed sexual assault within her lifetime. That is a lot of women who will likely feel the need for a safe space as they begin their healing journey.

          Do I think that separate facilities will prevent most rapes, or provide the same kind of healing that therapy and support from friends and family will? No, of course not. Yet, I understand why many women (including butch and trans women) feel the need to be separated from men as they sleep, change, pee, etc. Does this mean all men are rapists, or that I think men inherently will rape? No, I have friends and family who are men; I trust them. But the fact remains, there is currently a serious problem with male-on-female rape in our culture, and until that is resolved, I will stand by women’s right to have separate facilities for vulnerable situations.

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          Yes, I wouldn’t say they’re similar at all. Male-on-female violence is well-documented and has been widespread across the globe for thousands of years. One can see several examples of this phenomena just by reading the comments section on this article. I don’t see having separate women’s facilities for situations involving partial undress as being different from any other attempt by an oppressed group to create a safe space away from the dominant social group. And, as I said, I fully support the creation of gender-neutral bathrooms/housing/locker rooms for those who need or would prefer such a space. My college does their housing based on how each individual identifies themselves on the form. You literally are just given a blank line in which you can write anything. I am 100% in support of that policy.

          Personally speaking, yes, I am doing all I can to cope with and move past my experiences. In the meantime, I am incredibly grateful that my college has all-women’s spaces in which they could house me. As someone who relies on financial aid, scholarships, and student employment, getting my own apartment off campus would be financially prohibitive, and being forced to live in co-ed housing would not be in the best interests of my mental health at the moment.

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          I think it’s a legitimate topic of debate. I’m sure there are trauma survivors who feel panicked when they see someone they initially read as male, whether or not they are – but as you’ve acknowledged, that doesn’t mean we should ban trans* or butch women from women’s spaces.
          I’m sure there are also people that feel panicked around members of many different groups because they were victimized by members of those groups. It doesn’t mean that they are prejudiced – it’s a perfectly normal response to trauma, and not one that’s easily controlled. Such reactions are no less legitimate than feeling unsafe around men, but few would argue we should segregate bathrooms along lines other than gender.

          I have struggled with an anxiety disorder(mostly a brain chemistry thing, not the result of trauma – I am lucky enough not be a rape or assault survivor, and I would never claim to know what that feels like), and there were times in my life when something as simple as the prospect of meeting a friend for coffee could send me into a panic . It’s an absolutely horrible feeling that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But while I greatly appreciate my friends and family accommodating my specific needs, I don’t expect society to organize itself in a way that allows me to avoid my triggers.

          Personally, I think it is probably best to increase the availability of gender-neutral facilities without dismantling gender-segregated ones. There are enough people that feel more comfortable in women-only spaces that that is probably something we ought to preserve for the time being. Still, I think there are legitimate arguments against such spaces (for example, that they promote ridged, limited, ideas about sex and gender).
          While they may be necessary at present, gendered spaces are definitely less than ideal – men, women, and non-binary folks are all just people, and in a perfect would we would all share spaces respectfully.

          Expressing a contrary opinion does not mean that someone is attacking survivors, it’s just a different way of looking at the subject.

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        You witnessed an attempted assault? I don’t know what that means. I was abused by my father and other men in childhood and saw the same thing happen to others, yet I was forced to use boys’ rooms even though I was easily identifiable as a trans* girl no matter how I dressed, had to use boys’ locker rooms later on and was given shit for using the stall to change or a towel or showering in my swim suit, plus it’s scary as heck trying to act manly enough in men’s rooms. You have no clue what it’s like to be around men after being raped by them! I’ve been bunked in hospitals with men, been in jail with men and taken anger management classes with men, none of whom were even gay, let alone gender queer! It doesn’t feel safe at all but I can’t pass as female. I’m not going to get serious surgery so you don’t feel threatened by my adams apple and what’s in my pants. I’m thirty and still celibate because of what I’ve been through. I’ve had my drink drugged by a man who said “You’re not a lesbian!” Still it’s straight men I’m afraid to be around, not worried about homosexual dudes nearly as much. I would be terrified to dress any more feminine than I do and yet get stuck going into a men’s room. I could be assaulted because it wouldn’t be the first time I was the target of misogyny. I avoid the urinals but washing and drying my hands freaks me out. Still, I use the testosterone room and try to pass myself off as straight even though I’m often assumed to be a {insert f-word here} and that makes it inherently dangerous for me to be around straights! I have to change my mannerisms and pray that nobody wants to talk about sports with me. I think gender neutral rooms are the way to go and urinals are unsanitary due to the lack of toilet paper. I’d prefer more privacy in the stalls or more private rooms. Individual rooms should always be for whomever. You may not understand this, but the smell of men probably bothers me a lot more than it bothers you. Their voices make me very uncomfortable and I have several flashbacks a day. It’s a nightmare.

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          You know nothing about me or my experiences other than my post above, so making such sweeping statements such as “You may not understand this, but the smell of men probably bothers me a lot more than it bothers you,” is completely unnecessary and unwarranted. I didn’t want to play the “Biggest Trauma” race, so I tried to vague up my language a little bit for the Internet. Here it is: my father tried to murder my mother. He failed, hence “attempted.” There, is my trauma real enough to compare to your trauma now?

          As for the rest, I don’t quite get why you’re directing this at me, as I have clearly stated several times that I fully believe trans women, butch women, and all others who may not always “pass” have the right to use women’s restrooms and housing. In fact, based on the information you have given me, it sounds as if you might be someone who could benefit *most* from having women’s-only spaces. The fact that you were forced to use men’s accommodations is 100% wrong, but it doesn’t mean that gendered bathrooms are the problem (though, as I said, I support gender-neutral bathrooms and housing for those who would benefit from those spaces). The problem is transphobia.

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      I’ll do it depending on where I am. I tend not to if I’m somewhere my colleuges are because it will weird them out and make my life harder. Its like how I feign embarrassment about things women are supposed to be embarrassed about sometimes when there’ll be social consequences for not being. Its a really weird facet of the proffessionalism mask no one ever warned me about.

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    My favorite story in this vein was when a woman at a theater my husband and I were at walked into the women’s room, saw me, assumed she was in the wrong bathroom, and then walked into the men’s room and saw my husband. By the time she got into the men’s room, she was pissed off, and screamed at my husband for being in the wrong room. He pointed out she was actually in the men’s room. (I guess the urinals didn’t give it away!)

    Then she came back and yelled at me for letting her assume I was in the men’s room.

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    Pieces like this always spark a myriad of confusing feelings within me.
    I have no idea what it’s like to be mistaken for a guy in a bathroom. I mean, not really. The last time someone in a bathroom thought I was a boy, I was nine or something, and they didn’t care because I was a kid and I was with my sister. I have a decidedly womanly appearance. Hips, hair, boobs, hourglass, makeup, dimples. Even if I chopped off my hair and dressed butchier than I do now (I’m sort of futchy), I’d still be read as woman. I feel horrible that you and others who defy comfortable notions of gender have to deal with this shit.
    But I think I do become that person who nervously eyes the odd person out. I was raped in a rest stop bathroom when I was seven; I still have issues just being in a public restroom ALONE. I probably wouldn’t a manager, but I would leave, or get a (female) friend to go in with me, or something. Being that I am gay, I’m pretty good at the “lesbian or teenage boy” game, but sometimes I do get it wrong.
    As much as I hate to admit that, and feel sort of gross about it, it’s the g-d-honest truth. Bathrooms are a place of intense vulnerability. Trust me, you can lock that stall door all you want to, it’s not going to protect you. The local university makes all the bathrooms around their events gender neutral, and I always feel uncomfortable.
    I don’t know. I don’t know how to change the feelings, and that’s what stresses me out when I read things like this. I’m not transphobic, and I definitely have NOTHING against butches or those who are genderqueer, but if I’m that person you mention, what am I supposed to do about it?
    (Andrea Gibson mentioned this at a show I saw, and the genderqueer person I’m sort of seeing does this, too: Gibson has a pink barrette she puts in her hair when she goes to the bathroom; the person I’m sort of seeing puts a headband in their hair.)

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      I’m really sorry that happened to you. That’s a really unfair and shitty thing to have to live with and you have to do what makes you feel safe and secure. If that means leaving or having a friend come with you if you aren’t completely comfortable with someone or in a particular bathroom, that is a completely understandable thing to do. You aren’t doing more than what you need to do to feel comfortable, you aren’t calling a manager, threatening someone, saying something cruel, or giving someone the stink eye. Obviously, you don’t want to hurt someone else, but you have a very real and valid reason to need to take care of yourself in certain situations.

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      I’ve also had similar experiences of being sexually assaulted in a washroom (change room, technically, but similar sort of issue). I just make small talk with anybody who comes in. Someone who is there to be threatening won’t just make small talk back, generally, whereas someone who is just there to pee usually turns out to be friendly. It makes it much less awkward, or frightening, for everyone involved.

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      Personally, I think restrooms just need to be redesigned.

      I don’t think bathrooms or changing rooms make women feel more vulnerable because it’s a place where we get undressed. I think it’s that these areas are isolated. It’s a closed room, typically with no windows and often only one entrance. It’s a place you can be trapped with/by a stranger. And you know it doesn’t have any cameras and is generally unmonitored.

      The way I would design it would be to ditch the stalls altogether. Have tiny rooms with toilets. The walls go all the way to the floor and only one person can fit. And make the doors to these rooms real doors. And then put the sinks outside in an open public area.

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      I’m very sorry. I know how that feels, sort of. I’ve been trafficked and was abused for a decade by my father. I just hope you understand how the only difference for me is I was forced to use boys’ and men’s rooms for three decades, even though I’d been raped in them repeatedly. You can survive with males around but I know why you don’t want to deal with that. I hope a solution can be found and I think it has more to do with changing how restrooms are designed. I’ve been suffering a problem with eyes. I can’t stand them. Sometimes I draw them again and again. I used to see people in my head without eyes, because I hate to be looked at after what happened.

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    Well done, Kade. Thank you for soliciting community input, and for writing this article in a space where people unaware/unaccustomed to this sort of interaction will read it, as well as those of us far too familiar. I’m often wary of this conversation, explaining experiences that are unjustifiable and unforgettable.

    It isn’t limited to gendered spaces, either. I realized this when I realized why Ellen’s main demographic (aside from the queer community) is housewives/stay-at-home mothers: she isn’t threatening because she is nonsexual, unassuming, and occupies a space somewhere near androgyny. If she was instead a MOC (butch, stud, dyke, etc.) with a sassy attitude and sex appeal, she would never be so popular (read: acceptable). This extends to the way that many of us in the MOC community exist in the world. We are threatening, not only in an immediate, physical sense, but also because we do not fit into a category easily contained within society’s typical label-oriented culture. We threaten women because we are claiming our right in their community despite vast differences in appearance, experiences and mentality. We threaten men because we cannot be dismissed using traditional patriarchal reasoning: (when) they identify us as women, but perceive as male, and because we are representing the weakness in the security of their exclusive men-only club.

    Grocery stores, parks, restaurants, the list goes on. We aren’t welcome in their contentment-driven, comfort-seeking world because we force them to think, to feel and to rationalize their bigotry. That is okay, though, because it turns out, they fear us more than we fear them.

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    For the first time in my life someone exactly tells the stories I often find myself in!
    The feeling that I did something wrong using the womens’ bathroom is deep in my mind since I was a little girl (or should I say tomboy?). Thanks for making me realize that I’m not alone!

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    I’ve never personally had the experience of being non-gender-conforming in a bathroom so I can’t speak to that at all, but I did have a related experience recently dealing with the cis father of a 3-year-old girl escorting her to the women’s room. (I apologize if this is off-topic, I don’t mean to derail, but it made me incredibly angry and is perhaps relevant to the conversation. Feel free to scroll by.)

    I was working at a restaurant in Boston on Marathon Monday, dealing with somewhat shellshocked customers in the immediate aftermath of the bombings.

    A family came in to eat – the mother had just finished the marathon and really couldn’t even stand anymore. Her husband, father, and 3-year-old girl were there to celebrate with her. Midway through their meal, the little girl had to pee, and since the mom couldn’t really walk, the girl’s father was kind enough to escort her to the women’s room, because he clearly didn’t feel like the men’s room and urinals were appropriate for a 3-yr-old.

    Apparently coming out of the bathroom, a male customer started YELLING at the father that he shouldn’t have been in the girl’s room (so far as I know, no other customers were in the women’s room at the time), and GRABBED the little girl away from her father. The poor kid was already traumatized with everything else going on, and spent the next hour bawling. The grandfather came to let me know what had transpired, and I alerted the managers to the fact that a customer had assaulted a little girl. I expected them to apologize to the father.

    No – they decided to shame the father for being so nice as to give his wife rest and take his kid to the bathroom, failed to point out that we _DID_ in fact have two gender-neutral restrooms on the other side of the restaurant, and made sure that the mother (in visibly severe pain) was the only person taking the girl to the bathroom for the rest of the meal. They said NOTHING to the guy who grabbed the kid. I was FURIOUS – and given that it was only like my fourth day of work, didn’t really have the option of insubordination and telling the customers what I thought. Everyone was already stressed and traumatized by the bombings as is, just let the marathoner rest and the poor girl pee.

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    Bathrooms are complicated for me and my tiny build, baby face, and painfully wide hips as the fact that nobody looks twice at me in the women’s room means that I don’t even pass the slightest bit as a masculine person, no matter how hard I wish I could. This gives me a lot of painful gender feels because using the women’s room feels wrong, using the men’s room feels wrong, and the only time I’ve ever been confronted by another human about my choice in bathroom was when I used the men’s bathroom at Tabu in Philly, a gay bar. It was an incredibly disappointing experience, especially since I know this place and its customers are generally great with their bathrooms.

    Safe 2 Pee is a really great resource for finding gender-neutral bathrooms in your area, and relies on users to map them, so let’s all get too it and map out where us gender non-conforming queers can pee in peace! http://safe2pee.org/new/
    You can also save it to your phone’s home page and use it like an app

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    I hate bathrooms so much. It’s a basic need for everyone but it’s so stressful for me. I’m male identified but haven’t had the courage to go to the men’s room yet since most of the time I use a public bathroom is school and I wouldn’t pass there. One time I got a bloody nose in the grocery store so I HAD to go to the bathroom and automatically went to the women’s out of habit. So while I’m standing there with a bloody tissue this woman walks in and practically runs to the stall and waits till I leave to come out. It made me feel horrible, I was already stressed about even being in there and also having a bloody nose but she really made me feel like a horrible person.

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    something I love is that my campus Y has these signs on the bathrooms. They something like, although our signs say ‘men’ and ‘women’, people of any gender presentation can use whatever bathroom makes them feel most comfortable. We do our best to provide a safe and supportive environment for all people.

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    TRUE STORY. Although, it is oddly amusing sometimes. Once my friends and I went to a sushi place and the bathrooms were the kind that need a key from the establishment to get inside. Watching that poor Korean lady’s face as she decided which key to give me was both awkward and hilarious. But more often than not, these situations don’t always get to be that fun. Most times it just feels like I don’t belong anywhere, awkwardly apologizing for making someone else uncomfortable. I wish I was a little more confident in these situations, but it’s hard sometimes.

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    I am SO glad you brought this up. Because timing.

    A week or so ago, a friend and I were at the beach. After a little while, I had to pee, like nobody’s business (get it?). There was a restaurant nearby, so I figured I could sneak in and use the facilities, and get out without too much trouble. So I walk in, and follow signs for the restroom. I sort of noticed that someone was behind me, but didn’t think much of it/hoped it wasn’t someone who worked there coming to kick me out.

    Like others, my apprehensions about using the men’s room are based on safety. Fear. Still though, it can be tempting, and I have no problem doing so in safe spaces, because sometimes you just gotta go. Using the women’s room involves a certain amount of shame/guilt/embarrassment, that comes after another women (or several), take issue with my masculine appearance in THEIR space (because, you know, I don’t “look like a girl.”). This feeling increases exponentially each time it occurs. Despite that, I very rarely risk bodily injury over the mental kind (’cause I’m a lover, not a fighter, you know?). So I made sure the little white lady in her little white dress was affixed to the door before opening it.

    As I go in, I realize there is someone behind me, and trying to be polite, I hold the door and wait for them before going into a stall. I look up, and there’s this man, probably about six feet tall walking in. I sort of just stood there, frozen up, thinking, “And this is how I die.” We both stand by the sinks, eyeing each other. He looks at me, I look at him, we’re looking at each other, and it’s getting weird. So, I say “Uhm, this is the women’s room” squinting, preparing to be hit, or yelled at, or worse…

    His eyes go wide, and he says (verbatim), “Hubbida-hubbi’doh, oh, oh” (nervous laughter) “Oh wow!” and starts backing out of the room, exclaiming “Oh!” the whole time. I hear his voice thinning out as he walks down the hall.

    Crisis averted. Right? Yay! I pee, everything is great, the birds are a’singin’…

    It would only make sense at this point, that while washing my hands, a little girl comes up to the sink beside me with her mom. Not that children are t-totally-terrible or anything. It’s the mothers who think I’ll turn their baby into a baby dyke that I’m worried about.

    I look down at my hands, like, they are SERIOUSLY the most interesting and awesome things. I sing the happy birthday song in my head, because I heard once that to properly eliminate the bad germs, you’ve got to wash your hands for exactly as long as it takes to sing that song. And, for as long as possible, avoid looking up. When I finish and turn to leave, that woman hits me with a stink eye that says “you don’t belong here.”

    Mine say, “I just wanted to pee.”

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    As a trans* woman everything about this resonates. It is so familiar and so constant that it borders on a boredom. Only like being bored while wandering through a minefield. Blindfolded. I suppose you could get bored of that but I think its more a fatalistic inability to just worry about it anymore.
    Bathrooms are the number one place for non-gender conforming folks to get attacked, harrassed and or arrested. Which is kinda obvious but really, in our everyday life what other areas outside of the occasional dressing room (which isn’t an everyday thing, because even I dont shop non-stop) are gender marker as rigidly as bathrooms. None. At least none that I know of.

    Thank you so much for this piece! So true.

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    I am trying to understand why it’s not a thing to do your business… and if you are confronted, to say ‘oh no, I’m a woman’ and carry on as if nothing happened. Wouldn’t that potentially make them feel stupid + think twice if there’s a future occurrance of a similar situation? At the same time, you’re just OWNing it, your look…

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        It’s definitely the privilege of living in a safer space and not about “owning it”. As is clearly seen from a lot of people’s experiences, or reading the news, having a different gender presentation can make you a serious target for assault and harassment.

        It makes me sad that we live in a world where 1) people feel like they have a right to police bathrooms and 2) when someone is wrong/rude about misgendering someone, they tend to receive an apology instead of giving one.

        I vote for unisex restrooms for all.

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        It’s really easy to have the hypothetical conversation where you tell someone off who misgenders you but in reality there’s so much internalized shame that most often already comes with your gender presentation the automatic response is to feel at fault. Beyond that it’s often much safer to apologize and get out as fast as possible. I would rather leave than get the shit beaten out of me.
        I have the right to dress the way I want to dress, be the person I want to be, and use the restroom I want to use, but too frequently the choice is between asserting what you believe to be your rights and your safety. Safety is always the right choice to make.

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      Salandar, it’s crappy enough to actually have to say “oh, no, I’m a woman” and to have to justify who you are, as if you’re taking a sick test of some kind. IF it’s accepted. If someone looks at your butch, trans or gender variant face and decides you’re okay, you may stay.

      But what if that explanation isn’t enough and your presence still isn’t accepted in the women’s room? This is what so many trans women (and some very masculine butches) face. They don’t pass as gender normative and their very existence in the women’s room is seen as threatening. It can become a very charged situation nor does it matter what the “bathroom laws” are if someone decides you don’t belong there and takes the law into their own hands. And it certainly happens in Canada as much as it does in the US. Where you live feels safe because you “pass” unquestionably as a woman.

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      Yeah, until I started “passing” better recently, simply telling someone who wanted me out of the women’s room that I was a woman either (1) left me feeling awkward, broken, and alien or (2) didn’t stop there, and escalated like crazy with the “No you’re not.” My knee-jerk response is to seize up with fear, or maybe cry.

      Maybe it’s that being rejected in women-only spaces is a huge fear of mine, maybe it’s trauma from past experiences, or maybe just “owning it” isn’t something I feel capable of doing. Either way, it’s not really an option to “carry on as if nothing happened” for me, and I assume I’m not alone in this.

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    I completely understand. Pretty much each time I enter into a women’s restroom I receive disapproving glares and/or snide comments about my gender or presumed sex. Once I was even physically hit by a bartender for using the women’s bathroom. As I entered the restroom, I could hear some of the women questioning my sex. While I was still in the stall, I noticed that the partition door was being physically shaken and heard a woman’s voice stating that it was a women’s restroom. After opening the door, a female bartender kneed me in the thigh, slapped me on the arm, and told me to leave the bar. To this day, I still have anxiety while using a public restroom outside of a queer setting. Luckily my university has unisex restrooms and I don’t run into this problem at my place of work. The sad part is, if I’m in an unfamiliar setting and need to use the restroom, I’ll usually have my feminine girlfriend come in with me (only if it isn’t a single stall bathroom).

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    I present as “tomboy femme”, and I still experience bathroom-related anxieties (but on a MUCH lesser scale). I never make eye contact with those girls primping in the mirror…its like their stare could burn a hole through my skull.

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      Yeah isn’t this weird? I have almost never been mistaken for a guy and don’t think of myself as being particularly masculine-presenting, but somehow being in a women’s bathroom when I’m not in glammed-up dress mode (which I do occasionally but not often) just makes me feel like a whole different species of person or something. Like I’m doing an especially poor job of being female.

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    When I was homeless in New York, restrooms were always a huge problem for me. I was constantly sleep-deprived and scared to go out explicitly femme (I didn’t pass very well and was alone most of the time). Also, I was on spiro an had to pee roughly every twelve seconds.

    I usually spent most of the day at the library and would leave and walk two blocks to a Starbucks with a gender-neutral restroom, rather than risk either restroom in the library.

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    i absolutely hate using public restrooms. I get sir’d on a regular basis(which I don’t mind). i wear men’s clothing and i bind. i’ve had little old ladies freak out and hit me. I’ve even scared off women when they’re in a pack of bathroom break buddies. They always make a scene and back up to check the sign. Sometimes they reenter briefly to size me up again. Sometimes they disappear completely. i try to give a friendly smile even though i’m freaking out on the inside wondering if this is going to be the girl that pepper sprays me or leaves to call the police or tells anyone who can beat the crap out of me when i leave. this is why i usually avoid using public restrooms. most of the time i won’t, unless i can find a private one. at least then i would only startle the person waiting to use it as i’m exiting.

    The same anxiety applies to dressing rooms at clothing stores. i waste so much time wandering the store trying to decide if i really do pass well enough to use the men’s dressing room…. But what if a guy talks to me?! My voice is a dead giveaway…. Maybe i can be in and out of the women’s dressing room before i run into someone. Yeah! Then i run into some women while i’m toting a bunch of men’s clothing so i scurry off. At this point, i try to figure out if i really need to try on the clothes before purchasing. Lol. Sometimes i give up and go home empty handed and sometimes i wait for the women to clear out of the dressing rooms.

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      I try to buy women’s razors for my legs, chest and underarms but run out of cash so when I have the cashier take it off the computer I look around and say “Well, she doesn’t need those yet…” Then I’m horrified somebody is going to ask me who I’m shopping for. I can’t pass as a woman and don’t even go clean shaven but I am a woman. I just didn’t get to have hormone blockers before puberty and I’m afraid of major plastic surgery, have scary memories of my mom coming out of the hospital after a nose job. When I’m looking at women’s clothes in the store I’m always checking to make sure there aren’t any stares. It isn’t super normal to be picking out a girlfriend’s clothes without her there and that explanation won’t fly when I go in to the dressing room. My light frame means some women’s tops look like they were made for me. It helps to identify as goth at the register, if it’s dark grey or black clothing… We’re expected to be non-conforming!

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    it did happen to me once in the USA…but then I had a fedora hat on ( it was horribly hot) and shorts and a tight shirt and the man passing me to go the bathrooms opened the door to the men’s…hahahahahahah I looked at him like he was a moron…and then he saw my ahem chest and blushed….I prefer to use the handicapped as I am hearing impaired….( I am not handicapped) but at least it is almost always available….in Europe I felt much at home…everything is neutral…my hostel had cute young men and women all using the toilets and sinks in very little clothing. Sometimes I will use the men’s at the ferries….everyone does it..I think the woman who called the manager was incredibly effing rude…what a effing prude….I would never apologize….too bad this happens…

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    I really, really hate unisex bathrooms. They make me feel uncomfortable, unsafe, and on edge. In college I lived in a residence that had them, and I used to go to the other side of the building two floors up to use the one in the women-only wing.

    It’s totally illogical. I don’t feel that way around males most of the time, and I’ve even had no trouble on past hiking trips popping a squat with only a bush between me and my male friends.

    That being said, I don’t feel angry or resentful to the guys when they crop up in the bathroom. In fact, I feel a bit bad because I already feel guilty for feeling uncomfortable. But then I’ve also got this weird thing going where the less obvious someone’s gender is, the less I care about their gender.

    I think my problem is lack of exposure. It’s probably the kind of thing that I’d get used to, and eventually not care about. So, unisex bathroom away, but please ignore me looking awkwardly at the floor for the next couple years. That’s my problem, not anyone else’s.

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      I must admit to hating unisex bathrooms, too. I mean, really, really, really hating using them. Women’s bathrooms have given me palpable shelter from the threat of masculine sexual abuse and violence. I worry about the power and risk inequalities between men and women being elided. Women’s refuges are still precious and needful.

      But I hold these feelings concurrently with a deep understanding of the difficulties of gender transgression because I’m also a transsexual woman. Genderqueer and transgender people should emphatically not be penalized or policed in the threatening manner described in this post. Gender neutral services are essential for alleviating the difficulties gender fluid people – who need refuge from patriachal violence as much as any.

      Misogyny and male violence is the elephant in the men’s room. (And, as a wonderful essay in this series discussed, the elephant in the butch women’s room, too.) The gender binary in all this is not completely arbitrary; women’s accomodations are set up as crude protection from this rampaging elephant. So that elephant means I avoid masculine and gender neutral situations. Bathroom/changing room anxieties about masculine people are widely shared by many women not just because of slavish devotion to oppressive convention, but because they point to the threat of traumatic masculine violence, which is widely endemic indeed… There is nothing petty about this anxiety; it points to real problems.

      So by all means, fluid borders and kind inclusion, yes. Gender neutral bathrooms should be widely available. But please don’t make them mandatory!

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        I wonder how much of that is a cover for bad behavior. Like, as long as we assume that men would inherently behave badly if there were co-ed bathrooms they don’t ever have to not behave badly. I think trying to prevent male violence by segregating bathrooms is like trying to fix a broken bone with a band-aid.

        I’m supportive of women’s-only spaces and groups and participate in some related to my profession. But women’s groups are opt-in, rather than mandatory, socially-enforced sorting for unavoidable acts. And even there, I hope that they are temporary. Eventually, I pray that gender and gender-based communities will be an option for people who deeply identify with gender, and everyone else will form communities based on behavior rather than this one society-policed characteristic.

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          One must understand that gay men have zero protection from patriarchal violence and aren’t excepted into women’s spaces to get away from it. Just men thinking you are gay can be a problem. I’m a gay woman but I look like a metrosexual man and a lot of people assume I’m into men because I’m effeminate! Obviously binary rooms should be optional and neutral rooms should be mandatory. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that binary rooms should be illegal or anything but they are not as important as a safe place for all.

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    I’ve had some similar experiences as mentioned above, so I won’t repeat buuuuuuut I do have a changing room story. I was a nanny for a few years and a little girl I watched had swimming lessons once a week. So yup, had to take her into the women’s locker room every week before swimming and navigate that whole deal. Because I’m sired sometimes and from the back I’m often mistaken for a guy, I learned to start talking loudly to the little girl every time we entered so people would know I was in the right place (my voice is higher and typically people figure out I’m female quicker this way). I never made eye contact with anyone else, and mainly talked my way through the whole thing. Occasionally other kids would ask their caretaker loudly, “Why is there a boy in the girls locker room?!” while pointing in my direction. I would respond politely and smile and leave it at that. The almost 3 year old I was watching was on it one day and replied, “She’s a girl!” Kids can be awesome allies. :)

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      Similar story: We were on a family camping trip. I took my sons to the women’s bath house to clean them up and get them ready for bed. Another woman and her young daughter spied my naked 2 y/o in the shower and freaked, screaming their heads off. Jeez people, he’s a little kid who just wants to wash the day’s dirt off.

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          I can’t remember which one but an advice columnist told a single father off for taking his daughter into the ladies room because of how it would make the women uncomfortable and that he should either take her into the mens room or ask a random lady to take her for him. And just no. You don’t ask a random woman to take care of your kid for you and a little girl shouldn’t have to be banned from the ladies room because she doesn’t have a mother.

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          Why would he take her into the ladies’? I am a man, and if I’m the one who takes a child to the restroom, we go to the men’s. Mrs. Sam takes them in the ladies’. Yes, that means that my little girl and I walk past the urinals, and there’s an outside chance she’ll catch a glimpse of penis, but so what? The fact that men have penises and tend to pee standing up isn’t a surprise.

          A small child of the “wrong” sex in a restroom is far less surprising than an adult of the “wrong” sex, so it seems obvious what I should do.

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      Change rooms at the pool are the worst when you have no chance of ‘passing’. I often feel bad for the other women there who are uncomfortable with the presence of someone who might sexualize them as they’re changing, though the assumption that I’m a predator is also really fucked up. I always find a toilet stall to change in and won’t even shower until I get home just because I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or be accused of anything. I end up avoiding pools altogether.

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        I’m right there with you with changing being an uncomfortable situation. I’m pretty cool with my own body, but I’m hyper aware of what some people are assuming when I’m in a locker room. I prefer the beach over a pool any day for this reason. Change before I get there, dry while running around in the sun, and shower and change when I get home. :)

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    God I hate gendered bathrooms. I identify as a woman and I don’t feel that I don’t belong in the women’s bathroom, but holy shit am I scared of what other people might say or do there. It seems like I’m either a joke or assumed to be a rapist by a huge chunk of the (straight and queer) population, but sometimes I have to pee and there’s nowhere to hide. One awkward stare from someone heading out the door when I go in and I feel like I’m going to have a panic attack. Besides being disaffirming, the men’s bathroom is a scarier place for me to go than the women’s bathroom, so that’s not an answer.

    I prefer gender-neutral bathrooms just to get away from the stress of it all once in a while. You’d think this would get easier for me after two years, but it’s really not.

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    Once I was dressed in what I considered a relatively feminine way (compared to how I usually dress) waiting in a very long bathroom line of very annoying girls. I was thinking about how I would rather use the mens’ room but my family was there and I didn’t think I’d be able to pass anyway. After all, the line was much shorter and there were fewer annoying people over there. Then a guy who worked at the place who had to police bathroom lines walked up to me and asked if I was sure I was in the right line. I pretended to be more surprised than I was and gave him my best confused “Yeah…?” and he quickly apologized and left.

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    I love Butch Please! Because I am labeled and read as Femme 100% of the time, I had no idea some of these issues existed. But I should know they exist, which is where Butch Please comes in.

    Side note: My oldest sister (26 years my senior) is a butch lesbian and it makes me really uncomfortable to know that someone would call the manager and say nasty things to her.

    Anyways, loved this article, definitely made me think.

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    Reading this article made me angry and sad that you guys have to go through this everytime you have to use something as basic as the bathroom?? Seriously are people that dumb and ignorant they can’t tell a man and a woman apart? I mean I admit there has been times where I’ve have to look twice just to be sure, but I can ALWAYS tell a man and a butch woman apart ALWAYS… OK maybe is cause I’m a femme and I have like really good butchdar “butch radar” ;)
    Anyway If I was you I would’ve ask that woman, before she went and grab the manager..if she needed help with anything and watch how differently that would’ve turn out… I do that with people I catch staring at me for whatever reason. Rude and ignorant people deserve to be embarrass and put in their fucking place!!
    You should NEVER EVER feel ashamed and guilty for being yourself, never let anyone make you feel that way ever!
    NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR BEING YOU!! BE PROUD, STAND TALL, WALK TALL!

    I’m one of those persons that don’t give two flying fucks what anybody thinks, especially strangers! Nope…Not one fuck!
    You should all practice this, it is very liberating!
    And I’ll tell ya something else when I’m right and I’ve done nothing wrong ..Damn it I stand my fucking ground!

    LOVE YOU MY SEXY BUTCHES!! <3 <3 ;)

    Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace ~ Dalai Lama

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      There aren’t any guaranteed markers that define the categories of man, woman, or other. If you think as you do, you will fuck up.

      The only way you can actually know someone’s gender is by asking them.

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      Yeah, I’m with Shaed on this one. You can never be 100% of someone gender if you don’t ask them “hey, what is your gender identity?” It’d be pretty easy to read me as a butch lesbian when I’m actually not, and it’s sort of uncomfortable to hear someone announce that they are always right when guessing someone’s gender. Chances are that you’re not. I know you’re coming from a supportive place here, but it’s something to keep in mind.

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    This article speaks to me completely. I’ve been presenting more MOC for the past 3 1/2 years, since I started having a better fashion sense thanks to living in Korea. I always had and still have anxiety using any public restroom. I would either go with another MOC friend and we would talk in our girliest voices to make sure the women in line and in the bathroom knew we were women. Or I would take a more femme presenting friend or my gf with me.

    Whenever I went alone, I would have the typical scenarios happen. While I’m walking out, the woman walking in will double check the sign going in, or be hesitant coming in when she sees me and doesn’t know what to do. My way of coping when using public restrooms is to to avoid any eye contact, and I don’t even look at myself in the mirror. I just look down at my hands or feet…don’t bother looking at anymore.

    I have one story when I was in Korea, where I went to the bathroom with my MOC friend. I came out of the stall, while my friend was still in her’s, and this older lady just looked me up and down, and straight up asked me, “Are you a boy or a girl?” I replied in my girliest voice, “I’m a girl!” Then my friend comes out, and the woman looks at my friend and just shakes her head and sighs and kinda laughs.

    Overall, definitely love this article. It is sad how we have to go through this sort of anxiety when we are just being ourselves. We are just freaking reacting to nature’s call! Why can’t I pee in peace without having to defend myself, or having to avoid using public restrooms.

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      I too had some interesting experiences in the public restrooms in Korea. I was at a lunch meeting with my fellow co-workers and I left to use the restroom. I had an interesting interaction. I walked in to do my business–upon entering a middle aged woman shrieked and left quickly. I felt safe because the bathroom was empty at that point. When I was washing my hands another woman entered and gave me the elevator eyes, twice over. When I left, another woman intending to use the bathroom saw me exiting the women’s restroom checked me and the sign a couple times. Two of my co-workers saw this, to which i could only shrug my shoulders and causally remark that this is a normal occurrence for my butch self.

      Glad I could be your bathroom wing man Panda :)

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      I live in Korea too and pretty much every time I went to the Women’s room I had an encounter like that. So, I’ve given up and just use the Men’s room now. As it turns out, the Men’s room is awesome. Guys tend to just mind their own business in the bathroom. I’ve never been gender-policed there. No one even really looks at me. If a guy has ever been suspicious or uncomfortable then he has never said a word. I think men are also less likely to feel threatened by a female in their restroom than women do with a male in their restroom. Also, Korean guys are kind of androgynous anyway, so I fit right in :)

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    I really enjoyed this Kate. I’m an old butch and I was mistaken for a teenage boy until I was 40. I don’t know how many times I have been in a washroom and experienced when a woman walks in , looks at me, looks at the sign on the door and looks at me again scenario. Whenever I lived or travelled in Latin American countries I would most often be stopped before even going into the women’s washroom. The men’s washroom has never been an option for me or very rarely at least.
    I never felt so much that the women or men who I confused were threatened by me physically as much as challenged deeply by their superficial concept of gender. I felt embarrassed but secretly pleased that I ‘passed’. I don’t ever remember being threatened.
    Thanks for this post. really enjoyed the writing. Fascinating to see all the ways we deal with the washroom dilemma

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    Yeah, its things like the stuff I read here just now and then all the things I’ve heard or read that other trans women deal with in the bathrooms, that make me really worry once I switch to using the women’s restroom at some point once I start living full time. Something tells me I am not going to get through it all in one piece. Thank goodness I have a very high capacity bladder and can function very well while dehydrated and spiro, while it has made it a bit more difficult, still hasn’t knocked me down to the level of most people with regards to how often one needs to use the bathroom and how dehydrated one can be and still function.

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      I am so sorry. I went on a rant to a straight white cis guy friend about restroom issues and this was basically the crux of it–how trans* and gender nonconforming people (maybe especially trans* women, though I could be wrong) have to base their fucking days around bathrooms they know are safe and okay, especially early in transition. I cannot believe that some people have to do things that are PHYSICALLY DAMAGING (deliberate dehydration, infections or bladder problems from trying to hold it) just to avoid the danger is using a public restroom.

      I wish you the very best of luck and I hope for your sake that you live in an area that’s super chill and has lots of comforting single-occupancy restrooms.

      (and in case anyone was wondering about the friend, he was super confused at first but I think came around to the whole “use the bathroom you feel comfortable in” thing.)

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        Glad your friend seems to be finally getting it.

        The physical damage that many trans* people risk and suffer is pretty bad. And then there are the physical assaults, sexual assaults (happens in the men’s room, but surprisingly also in the women’s restroom because evidently some cis women think it is OK to grope someone whose gender they doubt), and arrests. Basically, a no win scenario except for the luckiest (gender conforming and pass unconditionally, in an optimal area, or some other combination of parameters).

        Sadly, I am not in the most optimal area. At least on university, I am pretty safe, at least in some respects. The university cops are at least pretty decent about trans issues I’ve heard (they are on a rather tight leash, its part of their training, and I’ve heard stories about them giving a good stern talking to to people giving trans people problems). Though, there are signs it isn’t all good. Off campus, things are worse based on what I have heard from others. Gender neutral bathroom availability is rather hit or miss off campus.

        This whole discussion has me wondering whether I should dress just a bit more femme in the beginning of my transition. I’m more than a bit of a tomboy. That compounded on being a trans woman is likely to get me into a lot of troubles. I’m still going to stick to my good shoes so that I can run if I need to (assuming I am not cornered, which is highly likely). No clothing or other articles that will compromise my ability to escape or make it likely to accidentally leave identifying information behind or have it easily taken from me (how does one do a more femme presentation while not carrying a purse and having sufficient pocket space for one’s things????). Ugh, its a no win. Oh well, I knew from an early age that I would be lucky to make it to old age at all and would probably die by being beaten to death. I just never guessed why it would be when I was so young.

        I think my paranoia is getting the best of me right now. I shouldn’t complain too much because I do have a few things going for me compared to others (comparatively privileged, high capacity bladder, etc.), but I am still pretty scared.

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    The owner of a restaurant flung herself in front of the women’s washroom to keep me from entering…”The men’s washroom is over ther–”

    She saw my face and realized that she’d been had. She ran behind the counter to whack her snickering son upside the head. He’d apparently told her that I was a man, just as a joke. From a distance, with the right hat, I suppose that I do. Har-dee-har-har.

    She made him mop the floors and scrub the washrooms. I’m sure it gave him plenty of time to think about bathroom etiquette.

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    Aunque puedo postear en ingles voy a postearlo en español.
    Me pinche encanta esta columna porque por muchas razones me encuentro identificada viviendo en una ciudad que es la número uno a nivel nacional en discriminación, en este tema es especial me ha pasado aquí y en lados a donde e tenido la oportunidad de viajar. Me encuentro haciendo las cosas que se explican: no mirando a las personas para que no piensen que las estoy viendo, se siente la “amenaza” cuando te ven, y la sarta de cosas que uno siente al entrar a un baño de mujeres que esta lleno o moderadamente lleno.En una sociedad donde la lesbofobia internalizada en las lesbianas y cualquier fobia que se pueda llegar a expresar se expresa gracias al sistema heteropatriarcal me sigue pareciendo absurdo las reacciones de las compañeras al encontrarse a uno en el baño. Por alguna razón el baño tiene toda esta mística alrededor casi casi como la de una iglesia. ¿Qué tuviera de malo que un hombre realmente estuviera en el baño de mujeres? ¿o visceversa? por qué pensamos que el baño es tan sagrado que nos sentimos atacados cuando encontramos algo o alguien “fuera de lo normal” en el? en fin. Me encanta la columna.
    Keep it up.

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      And although I understand Spanish plenty well enough to read your comment, I’m going to post back in English, because I don’t trust myself to be able to write back in any coherent way in Spanish. :)

      Just wanted to address your question though. I appreciate the sentiment, but I think the issue amounts to one of having “safe spaces” (i.e. a woman in a bathroom stall is in a pretty vulnerable position, and so the justification is there). That said, I think having single-stall unisex bathrooms eliminate all of these problems together.

  36. Thumb up 7

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    Butch Please is consistently the feature that I most look forward to on AS, which is really saying something. You are such a fantastic writer; your pieces are always so well thought out, honest, and relatable.

    As a femme looking lesbian, I don’t experience firsthand many of the intricacies, challenges, and privileges of occupying a masculine identity, but your words always resonate so profoundly with me. Thank you for your bravery (I am typing this on my phone and missed the “y” in bravery, so it was autocorrected to beaver, which I just had to share) in sharing such personal and vulnerable parts of yourself with us week after week.

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    Yup, this is all part of my daily life in China now. I had zero issues in the US, but here, if you don’t have long hair and wear miniskirts and high heels, you’re clearly not female.

    Stares, scoldings, women backing out of the bathroom in terror or covering themselves up with their towels in the locker room…. this is a lot of stress to deal with when you just have to pee! I’d rather not have to defend my gender identity every time I use a public restroom. But at the same time, I like to hope that these women learn something about the world when they see me, freak out, and are corrected.

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      ugh! “i hope these women learn something about the world when they see me, freak out and are corrected.”

      “these women” already know shit about the world, shit that apparently you haven’t noticed. that so many white men who visit china are orientalist dirtbags and predators. seriously, your response to a woman backing away from you in terror is to call her out on her ignorance? what about acknowledging the historical legitimacy of her fear and expressing some compassion?! plz respect that you are in a different country and refrain from making sweeping cultural judgments.

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        Woah, I didn’t mean to be condescending or hateful. I know that foreigners did their very best to screw this country over, and that many are still taking advantage of the economy and people here. I’ve met a lot of sleazy foreigners out here, for whom I feel the need to apologize for to my friends and coworkers.

        But my point wasn’t about that–it was just suggesting that the definition of a “woman” is very narrow here, and I hope that it expands in the future. Many women are stuck in the mold that society makes for them, especially with China’s long history of conformity and focusing on the good of the group rather than the individual.

        Sorry to have ruffled so many feathers.

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          what im tryna say is that you’re not gana fit into the definition of whatever “woman” means to chinese folk because your whiteness preceeds your gender presentation.

          your suggestion of the definition of womanhood in china “ruffles my feathers” because i know so many chinese queer/trans folk who actively challenge that everyday. maybe as a westerner you need to step back and just listen and learn. there are beautiful queer communities that exist and will continue to exist and grow without your acknowledgment or support. you don’t know this place. you don’t know this culture. living there for one, two, ten years won’t change that. own your privilege and work with it if you choose to. but don’t come up in here and try to tell anybody what this culture is.

          and your “hopes” for it? PLEASE. STOP. if that isn’t condescending goddamn i must never have touched a dictionary in my life.

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          Thanks for your views, Sally. It seems that I’ve fallen into the trap called “what’s best for me must be what’s best for everyone.” I mean no disrespect to these people or this country, but maybe some of my opinions don’t reflect this. The last thing this place needs is another foreigner with a superiority complex, so I need to be careful that I’m not part of the problem. Thanks for challenging me and making me see another side of the situation.

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    I was gonna say “this really never happens to me, why does this never happen to me? I live in Indiana, jeez.” And then I remembered that it does, it’s just that much of my public bathroom usage is at school, in the bio building, where most people know me. So there’s that.

    But at my cousin’s wedding an older woman did a double take as I walked out of the ladies’ room in a tie. Also, not bathroom related, but a little kid at Goodwill the other day did that grandiose little kid addressing the room thing, I said something in reply, and wandered over to look at luggage hearing “is that a GIRL? Mommy is that a girl?” Apparently sweaters are uber manly because I also got called sir by a security guard earlier the same day.

    Anyway. For me it’s never been a big deal, thankfully…

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      My favorite “question” moment was when I was chatting with a Deaf guy I’d met at an event. It was slow, so we we’d been making small talk for a couple hours at this point.
      “Are you a boy or a girl?” he asked.
      “I don’t really care,” I signed, “but usually a girl. If I talk, my voice sounds like a girl; it’s easier to go with it.”
      “Ah,” he replied, “I understand. If I talk, my voice sound like I’m Deaf! It’s easier to go with it too.”

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    Honestly, it could totally be me looking at you, the sign, and at you again…ever since I ‘accidentally’ walked into the wrong restroom at 12/13 years old (I was hanging out with a bunch of boys and it just felt like the most natural place to go!) and was publicly humiliated for it, I still feel a pang of anxiety every time I walk into a bathroom. Sometimes I check the sign twice even if no one is there! Recently I was at a club and the line for the women’s room was too long, so I gathered up my courage and walked into the men’s bathroom…only to be literally rushed at by a bouncer (while i was in the stall) and literally carried out. So…….yeah I’ll be checking the sign.

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    Fear in restrooms is a real thing and I’m glad it is being talked about. I’m dismayed at the downplay of the very real reasons women are afraid of male-appearing folks in the restroom. One person posted about being raped in a bathroom when she was seven and that went totally unacknowledged. I want to acknowledge that and know it was heard.

    I appreciate the discussion around how to reduce the feelings of anxiety when there is a fear reaction from a woman. Try and understand too that the fear is not unreasonable and it comes from a very real place, not just made up general anxiety about male presenting people. Female presenting people have real reasons to be afraid, and remembering that may help handle the stress of being (wrongly) on the other end of that fear.

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      I understand. I understand why women scowl at me when they see me washing my hands in women’s bathrooms. I understand why women visibly stiffen as I walk past them on dark streets- even when I’m being super-careful to be as non threatening as possible (and staying as far away from them as possible). I understand why women shoot defensive looks at me. I just wish that other women could understand that I have just as many reasons for being weary of men in my space as they do. It’s pretty hard to be ostrasized by my own gender. I’m 5’10″, devoid of curves with a strong jaw and choppy hair. I don’t consciously present as MOC, I dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. I get called sir frequently. I am checked out by gay men all the damn time. I jokingly refer to this as playing “gender-confusion bingo” with the public but it hurts. I’m not sure what I can do about it. I just want to dress comfortably and wash my hands in peace.

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        Thank you for writing this… there are some women who are viewed as MOC almost no matter how much they femme it up (and when they try to can even be mistaken for trans women even though they aren’t). A very key component to gender which people often ignore in their simplistic explanations of it is something called “gender attribute”… how your gender is viewed/assigned by others no matter how you view yourself internally or think you’re expressing it. This can have a profound impact on your gendered experience, self-esteem and even safety.

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          The gender attribute thing is important. I’ve been told my gender is not what I feel it is because of that and that the ways I’m expressing it don’t mean what I want them to because of things like my body shape (I don’t want to bind my chest but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be seen as gender neutral – binding my chest would feel actively masculine rather than neutral to me).

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          Ah, thanks for adding to my vocabulary Gina :) My ‘gender attributes’ are definitely an issue. While I said that I don’t consciously dress MOC, it’s not as if I’m wearing super feminine clothes- they don’t really fit my body. I just don’t think of wearing pants that actually reach my ankles and sweaters that are actually warm as a gendered action. In my mind I’m totally and absolutely female so I guess it’s kind of an affront when people make assumptions based on very flimsy evidence.

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          Thank you! Yes this! Screw socialy constructed gender constraints (that women’s clothes have to be impractical and uncomfortable) and anyone who imposes them. I love in Scotland, I am wearing a fucking sweater!

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      I think the problem I have with this is the notion that ‘female presenting people’ have reasons to be afraid but may not consider that THEY could potentially make OTHERS afraid. Cisgendered ladies of all genders can be abusive to trans people in the bathroom.
      And the fear is not just confusion about whether I’m a man. Some of it is just plain homophobia from women who are reacting to me as a pervy homo. For MOC women/queers, it really sucks to not feel safe in the men’s washroom due to fear of potential violence yet to walk into the women’s washroom and be seen as predatory. There’s the dual experience of being vulnerable to violence but also stigmatized as if I’m a potential creeper. We end up being left with the impression that we aren’t safe or welcome in ANY washroom.
      It raises an interesting question: how often do queer cis women who lean on a more feminine side have that experience of being read as predatory by women they don’t know?

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        I don’t think I’ve ever had a situation where someone told me I was looking predatory. Ever. People tell me it’s because I have dimples. Idk.
        I’m 5’5, average weight. Just about anybody, including my powerhouse 4’10 aunt, could take me out. Also, 95 to 99% of rapists are men, and the women that rape overwhelmingly do it in different situations than guys do, and I couldn’t be read as a guy if I tried, so maybe that’s why I don’t ever think I’m threatening? Also that I look like I’m fifteen.
        I don’t know. Maybe I should think on this.

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        That’s true, but taking into account that they might make people feel afraid doesn’t counter out their legit reasons to be afraid. Its horrible to be misgendered and the way people in these stories have over reacted is horrible. But wanting a women only bathroom because they’re afraid of men is perfectly reasonable.

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    I have personally experienced this in public restrooms. The disapproving looks from mothers, the curious glances from children, and the confused looks from a lot of people in general.

    I have developed a sort of dreaded feeling when having to go to public restrooms, and give out a big sigh of relief when it’s empty. Admittedly, being mistaken for guy has become far less as the years progressed, I still harbor this fear out of old habits.

    I don’t like feeling guilty for going to the restroom of my own gender, yet here I am, still avoiding all eye contact and leaving briskly. I know very well that my looks confuse most people, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt me.

    Thank you for bringing up this very realistic issue.

  42. Thumb up 3

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    Great article!

    I’m proud to say that I just met with the principal of my high school and there will be a gender-neutral bathroom at school starting next fall.
    It doesn’t fix problems with gendered spaces and/or people’s perceptions of gender as a binary or not accepting others’ gender presentation, but at least it will provide some temporary relief.

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    One of the only instances where I have ever been very close to starting a screaming match with any sort of management person in a place was this one time I was in the major gay bar in my city, which has drag queens and has been around for 30/40 years and existed through homosexuality being illegal.

    Me being genderqueer leaning transmale, I was in the line for the mens room. There was a very long line for both bathrooms. The security guy decided to haul out of line anyone looking too female for the line and sent us to the ladies room.
    Its just so much more of a massive fuck you when its coming from within your own goddamn community.

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      Some of my worst bathroom interactions as someone MOC have happened in gay bars, with straight ladies who were there to dance or for a bachelorette party. I’ve been given dirty looks and defensively told ‘I’m not a lesbian’ dozens of times while waiting in line, despite having not indicated any interest. They’ll do it even when I haven’t looked in their direction.
      Gay bars also seem to universally behave obnoxiously to trans people as a kind of unwritten policy.

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    Best place to use the restroom as a butch/boi? A Tegan and Sara concert. I recently saw them in San Diego and while waiting in line for the women’s restroom, alongside a TON of various butch/boish concert goers, I was actually waved into the mens restroom by a cis dude. I waltzed right in, used the stall, and made sure not to look into the mirror which was directly opposite the urinals. Seriously, who designed that? Haha The best was overhearing a woman remark to a guy “I don’t see why we can’t pee in the same place, we’re equals”. I had a “GIRL POWER” Spice Girls moment when I heard her say that.

    But back in “real life” I usually ask my very femme girlfriend to escort me to the restroom, because if looks could kill, I’d never make it out of there.

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    I feel I have been very lucky in this regard. I started using the women’s restroom at work, where my employer made it clear it is my right to do so and I will be protected. Actually, there wasn’t much protest, and most of the women I know have been very accepting of my being in that gendered space.

    That experience where I am free from harassment has been essential to developing self-confidence. Frankly, the first several times I used the restroom at work, I was very scared and nervous. Only 1 or 2 women have given me the look-over, but no one has said anything offensive or harassing.

    Before I transitioned in the protected environment of work, I would not enter gendered spaces in places like restaurants or shopping malls for fear of (what?). I would use the single gendered bathroom at a gas station before going to such places or simply hold it until I could get home. Now, however, I don’t have fear when I go into such gendered spaces. I feel I have as much right to be there as anyone else.

    What would I do if someone approached me and said something? Honestly, I’m not sure. So I wonder if confidence really is what a lot of us trans and genderqueer folk lack. Are there statistics on the numbers of crimes against us in gendered spaces such as restrooms? I don’t mean to minimize the danger we face in these places, but how much of our fear is based on reality, and how much is based solely on the unknown?

    There are times I do get nervous and feel fear. But I know it is okay for me to be there, and if someone doesn’t want to be there when I am there, they can choose to leave, as I won’t be offended. But I won’t leave simply because they are there.

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      The NTDS (National Transgender Discrimination Survey) probably has the most comprehensive and best statistics for in the USA. It had a few sampling issues, but way less than previous things would and it had a pretty large data set considering.

      http://www.thetaskforce.org/reports_and_research/ntds

      From reading it, sadly, great fear is most justified.

      Though, one thing is worth noting. If it is at all like the performing arts, having confidence attracts a lot less scrutiny than if one is acting self-conscious. Not an easy thing to change in oneself sadly.

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    What’s sad is it doesn’t have to be this way though. A lot of places use “gender-less” bathrooms that are individual rooms, instead of stalls within a “lobby” so to speak. They are better for many reasons – most of all, they avoid that gender binary situation discussed in this article, they are more private, they are more suitable for people with children, they are generally more spacious (I HATE being barely able to fit in those tiny stalls), and if done correctly, they can still be disabled-friendly. I’m hoping the future will be more of these types of bathrooms and the other type will be phased out.

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    While I recognize that this a problem and a serious issue, I would like to state that I am probably one of those women you catch looking at you — but that is because I am checking you out. Seriously. You’re smoking hot and I am trying to work up the nerve to say something witty to you so we can strike up a conversation, but I’m just awkward.
    I feel bad and afraid that you think I’m judging you when in fact I’m crushing on you a little bit. I recognize this, so I try to let you see me give you a little appreciative smile. But often, I think I blush like anyone else who gets caught checking someone out.

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    This is a great article! My best friend gets a lot of looks and mumbled comments when she uses the ladies, if I talk to her others seem to accept her better,(I look feminine) like what because she is talking to me makes it ok for her to use the female bathroom! I just don’t understand their reasoning behind their response, its a bathroom you don’t need to talk to anyone if you don’t want to, you are just sharing a public space. (If everyone was judged on their appearance in the toilets I would have to point out so many fashion faux pas!)
    It would be interesting to hear experiences from feminine looking men and male identified people in the men’s room.

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    Awesome article, as a masculine presenting woman I’m always self conscious of entering a ladies bathroom. I avoid making eye contact with anyone and try to get the hell out as soon as I’m done washing my hands; is such a ridiculous coping mechanism and it makes me angry that I always have to worry about a stranger’s response or attitude of seeing a non feminine woman using a WOMEN bathroom. so far I have not being ask to leave or “If I’m at the right place?” type of questions – which is a good thing?? I don’t know how I would react if that happens to me. I better start thinking of a good comeback response….

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    I don’t remember why or from whom this piece ended up on my FB newsfeed, but I read it because it is something completely new and foreign to me, and quite frankly, that made me curious.
    Reading it made me much more than curious, it made me think and wonder. It is a very well written piece that sheds light on a segment of society that most of us never even think about, let alone understand.
    Life is not binary; it is analogue. I said that to someone the other day about a completely different topic, but it is much more universally true than I imagined, as this piece clearly demonstrates.

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    As someone who has frequently been asked if I was a girl or boy since I was 11-12 years old this piece struck a deep chord within me. I have never reflected much about how I presented myself, I’m only being me and that is apparently masculine-presenting(great term). I have many times been confronted when in the female bathroom but only offered a lame “I’m a girl ok?” most times. All the times I’m left stewing in anger, not only for the situation but for my reaction to it. Afterwards I think “I should’ve asked them if the wanted to see my cunt” mainly to get my point across effectively.

    All this talk about a safe space and entering the male space is interesting and I do venture in to it at times. I mainly shop in the male sections of stores with no problem. I frequently shop in a traditionally all-male shop with no problem. So my ventures in the male space have been pleasant ones.

    It’s an interesting and think-worthy topic. Thank you Kate.

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    I am sometimes late to class-sometimes even miss it-due to hiking the distance to get to a unisex bathroom on campus. More often, I just try to hold it till I can go home inbetween some of my classes.

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    I’m just…so tired of having to think/be on edge every time I use a public restroom. I just want to pee in peace. I want everyone to be able to pee in peace.

    Thanks for writing this. And thanks to everyone having really informative, civil discussions in the comments.

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    I’m lucky in that when people see me as a guy in the girl’s room, they think I’m a young teenage boy and cut me a little slack because they assume I’m a stupid kid.

    One time I got kicked out by a woman who was shepherding a large gaggle of preschool-age girls. I figured that was *not* the safest time to change her perception of me from stupid kid to threatening adult, so I just went to the men’s room with my 5-year-old son. He apparently thought that was the perfect time to call me “mommy”! Fortunately nobody else in there noticed, which was good, because we were quickly running out of options. :D

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    I’m an old straight guy, and the article and the comments confuse me. Not like I don’t understand, but rather, I understand, but I don’t know what I can do about it. I really am not uncomfortable with having females in the rest room with me, but I make them uncomfortable and understand why. I would gladly stand outside of the door to protect your right to pee, and I have done this, but I would have to scrutinize you carefully so that I would recognize your need for such chivalry, and you might just kick me for staring at you. And of course having an old guy standing outside the restroom door would make you really, really uncomfortable.

    I feel more than a little unhappy that male-on-everyone-else-violence is a thing, but it is not my thing. It seems like I should do things to make up for my genders’ miscreants, but I might be labeled creepy for even getting involved in a discussion about the need for unisex restrooms. And here I am.

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    I just want to rage and fight with the women who make other women feel uncomfortable and unwelcome; it’s a bathroom! Sometimes we go in a men’s washroom if the lineup is too large at the women’s, or if the women’s is out of order. I don’t see why a masculine person should feel unwelcome in a washroom. It’s just a place to evacuate and maybe (if you wear make-up) touch up your face/hair.

    It’s the same way at the ‘women’s only’ part of the gym. Masculine-looking people there are often given dirty looks. It’s fucked-up.

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    A lot of queer clubs/bars here in Seattle have unisex bathrooms, which are awesome for everyone, and I highly support them. You basically walk in and never know who in the stall next to you…it can be a gay boy, a straight girl or a giant fabulous drag queen. Nothing feels safer then a bathroom filled with drag queens, (at least for me).

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    Loved this entry. I get sir’d quite often and this bathroom thing really hit home for me! I always get a little bit of anxiety when I use public restrooms now. Just like one person said above, sometimes I stick out my chest a little more or unzip my hoodie or even smile in hopes that my gender will be more obvious. I’ve had people ask me if I’m a boy or a girl, I’ve had people stare, and I’ve had many people come in the bathroom, see me, then go out and check the door to make sure they’re in the right bathroom. Once when I was exiting a public bathroom with my girlfriend at the time, a woman said, “Oh I see they’re allowing boys in here now.” It always bothers me a bit but I try not to let it get too me too much whenever something like this does happen. People are ridiculous.

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    I found this a fascinating read. I firmly believe that people should be able to use the bathroom that feels right for them and how they identify. If anything on this planet should feel safe it should be going for a freaking wee and it makes me both angry and deeply upset that it isn’t.

    If I walk into a woman’s bathroom and see someone my brain identifies as male I would probably stop and check I’m in the right bathroom but that is because I have on occasion failed to pay attention and wandered into the wrong one. I try my best not to give an impression that would cause any negative feelings in anyone that I saw though I realise now that my double checking that I’m in the bathroom for me might be difficult for some. For sure I will now make to do my checking on approach to the bathrooms so I don’t have to pause.

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    I totally understand all the emotions you mentioned. As a translesbian, I have decided to not transition physically for various reasons. But I am female. I have come out to the people in my life that I care about….the ones that have the ability to understand that I know who I am and that I will act and feel and love as that gender….regardless of what parts or face I have. I trust in the reality of knowing me, they will know I am female.
    I have been in a female-female relationship for about 4 years. She knows I am female….that all my parts are female, though they “look” male. She is a butch.
    She had much the same experiences, in general, as you….Kate.
    We are waiting for the Newest Brave New World of gender identity…..which does not follow the old socially constructed stereotypes of “male” and “female”. But it may be a long time coming so we need to put on our “thick skin”, take deep breaths, and remember the ones who know us and love us.
    At work, I wear cute female undies…to remind me of myself and remembering being cuddled by my sweet butchie as I walk around the store pretending to be a male….waiting for the future

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    I vote to make sarcastic t-shirts that could answer all of this for them before they can open their mouths. I just posted something in a group on here but just found this and I had to read and comment. What about a shirt like: KEEP CALM I’M IN THE CORRECT BATHROOM. I think it would be a hit from a status I wrote on Facebook 26 people liked and five said they would buy these shirts. I vote to making them accessible to buy!

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