A Trans Guy’s Guide to the Men’s Bathroom feature image from Sean Murphy via Getty Images edited with a picture of Gabe.
Welcome back to a Trans Guy’s Guide. Today, we are in the unenviable position of jumping tush first into the world of the men’s bathroom.
It’s obvious to say using the restroom as a trans person is not smooth streaming. There’s the overarching safety issues and the crossover with homophobia. But there was so much else I was unprepared for when I made the switch. I’ve used public bathrooms my entire life. How different could the vibe be?
Very different. Horribly different. The rules of the men’s room are chaotic, toxically masculine, and barely intelligible.
I continued to use the women’s room as long as I possibly could. I don’t pass, per se, but I have reached the point where I have enough of a little mustache to cause concern among the ladies. I could see in the mirror after I pissed that I very obviously did NOT look like the girlies anymore and it was turning heads.
I am now exiled to a gross, new world. I’ve lamented that more than any cruel transphobia and systematic oppression. It’s the men’s bathroom that is going to cause me to de-transition.
It’s that bad, y’all. Brace your nostrils and let’s enter together. In a not-gay way.
1) The men’s room is not clean. Ever.
Everything smells bad. The ground is sticky. The seats have piss on them. There’s poop streaks on the bowls. There is a notable difference between the air and cleanliness of the women’s and men’s bathrooms. It is everything people joke about and more. When I walk out of a men’s restroom, even at a very nice restaurant or a high-end clothing store, the bottoms of my shoes peel off the floor with every step. The men’s room at Gucci? Looks like the women’s room at a 4H campsite. A girl’s worst is a boy’s best.
Even if a janitor just went in there to clean and you go in first, it will not be clean. That’s the magic of the men’s room.
There’s also nowhere to put anything without it getting dirty. As the MC in “Paris Is Burning” says, “It is a known fact that a lady do carry an evening bag.” But since presumably there’s no ladies in here, there’s nowhere to put a bag. The era of the metrosexual is over. To be a man means you must only use the pockets you have. Carry a wallet or get fucked.
What I’m saying is there are no little hooks! If I go into a men’s room and there actually are ways to hang a bag or jacket, I am so pleasantly surprised. Otherwise, I’ve had to try to hold my crossbody away from my lap while pissing. I’ve put my fanny pack in my teeth or around my neck.
There’s also no place to dispose of a tampon or pad so you can’t place your bag or phone or anything on the metal box for tampons to hold it either. If you take out a used sanitary napkin or Playtex, you gotta carry it out and toss it in the communal garbage or… I don’t know… eat it?
2) Men do not lock the door.
Fellas, is it gay to lock the stall door behind you?
In the women’s room, when you push on a stall door, if someone is inside, the door will be latched. Not so in the men’s room. When they turn their backs to the door and whip their dicks out to piss in the bowl, they do not lock the door behind them. The etiquette is to lightly push on any door that seems cracked and wait for it to bounce off the back of the man inside. The guy grunts his displeasure and you check the next one.
Do not make my mistake of seeing a door slightly ajar and absolutely slamming it open under the WILD assumption that the stall was not being used. I have hit more men in the shoulder blades in the last year and a half than a Swedish massage therapist at a hotel spa. You literally have to creep to the door, push it lightly, feel resistance and move on. This is truly unhinged, but it is the law of the land.
3) No one talks.
You know the old trope that women meet their best friends in the bathroom? You go in, you see a girl either absolutely killing it with her outfit or crying at the mirror and suddenly ten years have gone by and you’re Maid of Honor in Veronica’s wedding? That is not happening in the men’s room.
It is silent. Straight, cis men probably think if they speak to another man in the bathroom, it could be mistaken for cruising. The fear of a public misunderstanding regarding the old “sticking one foot under the stall to see if the other guy is down to clown” move is still going strong. (In the gay men’s room, this is a best case scenario, tbh.)
In this same vein, I encountered a new social dynamic with my straight guy friends. When you go to the bathroom with your girls, you chat the whole time. The presumption of sharing one type of parts means any noises or unearned intimacy was looked over.
When I’m at the movies with my straight guy bestie and we’re talking, I’m used to peeling off to our separate bathrooms and pretending we each don’t have genitals. I’m still getting used to following him in, wondering if we should keep talking or if that’s weird. Wondering if we should be in stalls next to each other or if that’s weird. Wondering if when he uses the urinal in front of me, I’m supposed to feel like he truly sees me as a guy or if that’s weird. It’s all very weird!
4) Don’t worry if you have to wait for the stall.
This is for those of us who have not had bottom surgery that allows us to pee standing up. If there is any talking inside the bathroom, it’s by the professional attendant hired to be inside the men’s room. That person might shuffle you along toward the urinal to keep the flow of traffic going if the bathroom is particularly full.
If you “pass” as a cis guy, some people will be grumbling about you holding up the line. Others will assume that if you don’t use the urinal, you’ll be pooping. (Both of these will come up later.)
If you’re waiting outside a single bathroom or a Port-a-Potty, in a public gender neutral line, a nosy patron might also step in. This person will be a cis (mainly straight) woman who suddenly has an urban planning degree when it comes to bathrooms. She’ll make the revolutionary comment that all the girls in line should go first because they have vaginas. This requires the trans guy to have to out himself in order to avoid the assumptions about his parts. It’s extremely annoying.
You have to get good at standing your ground, having an uncomfortable but not dangerous confrontation, and not worrying about what people assume you’re doing in there. There’s no “gender detective” as Portlandia put it and even the chick forgetting trans men exist has no real power over you. No one cares if you sit. They will just think you are pooping and you have to not be embarrassed about that.
“Next up! Urinal’s open,” someone will say to you. Gesture for the person behind you to go ahead of you. Say, “I’ll wait but thank you.” Be firm! Maybe you’re not pooping! Maybe you’re doing drugs! They’ll never know!
5) Wear a hat.
Gas stations are their own beast and it really depends on what city you’re in when you use a rest stop type bathroom. As someone who drives across the country every so often, if you walk into a place and you don’t feel safe peeing there, you gotta pack it up. There have been multiple occasions where I’ve just peed on the side of the road rather than deal with a potential hate crime. I’ve never pooped on the highway though, so in an emergency you may need to wear a hat. (Not to poop in. Jesus! To hide your face.)
Pull the rim of the baseball cap down and use it to cover your forehead and hairline. If you have some hair in front, put it down as bangs over as much of your face as you can.
As a woman I was taught to remain vigilant, and always take in details in public, in case someone attacks me. (I watch too much true crime.) As a guy though, looking into people’s faces gives them the ability to look at you! The more they look, the more they might clock you. And in such a small space, and in an area you’re not familiar with, this is not good. Better to get in and out with most of your head covered and your eyes on the floor.
6) Use a product that lets you pee standing up.
You’ll have to carry it on your person and wash it at the sink after. Unless you also carry wet wipes and do it in the privacy of the stall, which is probably safer but requires carrying more stuff and if you’ll recall there’s no hooks for bags.
You’re also gonna get pee on your hands, but so do men. And most of them don’t wash their hands. You will wash yours.
The market is flooded, pun intended, with all sorts of pee devices. They range from around 10 to 45 bucks depending on the quality of the plastic or how much it’s designed to look like a cis dick. Some have names with female puns or pastel colors, which are mostly for women going camping. (Because the gender binary forbids women from pissing into anything that isn’t pink.) If that causes you dysphoria, there are stores that cater specifically to transmasculine people who want to stand to pee.
Personally, those devices are affirming, and helpful in an emergency unsafe bathroom sitch, but in general they take too much time for me. I like to rush in and rush out, basically sliding across the seat like I’m stealing home base with my ass. If I do stop, it’s only to put three or four of those sheet barriers on like that’s gonna help at all with the germs. The men’s room smells horrible. I don’t want to stay another minute if I don’t have to.
How come cis people never have to think about all of this just to use the bathroom? Because, my dude: God gives his worst piss options to his handsomest little angels.