Tag Archives: restrooms

This Is the Last Time


December 2013

I’m headed for my locker after a workout at the gym and a stranger is standing there, using the locker next to mine. I see her face, as I approach, transform into a mask of such disgust that it’s immediately clear to me just how terrible a monster she thinks I am. I smile and say hello anyway to break the tension. “Get away from me,” she sneers, looking down her nose at me. Does she think I’m a man? I’m a butch looking lesbian but I have breasts. I grab them and thrust them out at her. “I’m a woman! I have breasts!”


“What are you talking about? I’m just – ”

“SHUT THE HELL UP! DON’T TALK TO ME! DON’T COME NEAR ME! GET AWAY FROM ME! GET OUT OF HERE! GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME! (as I pull everything that’s in my locker into my arms) “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GET AWAY FROM ME! GET OUT OF HERE! GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME!” (as I scramble to get as far away from her as possible).

Red-faced, I find another locker a few aisles away. I jam my things inside and hurriedly undress between two other women who are doing their best to ignore the situation. A moment later, I hear her address me from the front of the room: “YOU KNOW YOU REALLY OUGHT TO WATCH WHAT YOU SAY OR SOMEONE WILL THINK YOU’RE A MAN!”

She leaves and no one says anything. I head for the shower. I’ve got thirty-five minutes to get myself to class but I spend ten of them slumped against the tile wall, shaking as the water hits me.

I feel like a freak. A squadron of kamikaze thoughts attack me.

What the hell is wrong with me? Why do I scare other women?

Granted, she’s crazy, but this isn’t an isolated incident.

I can’t do this anymore.

She thought I was a man. She thought I was a rapist.

I don’t deserve this. I’m a kind, moral, decent human being.

I’m always getting read as male. I’m a masculine person. I can’t help it. I feel more male than female.

If I went on testosterone, would my life be easier, or harder?

Would I be changing into something that I’m not? Or becoming more of who I am?

I’m not a man. I wasn’t socialized as a man. I can’t erase the past forty-seven years of living in a female body and being treated like a woman. I might grow a mustache but I’ll never be a man. It’s too late for that.

I hate my body. I’ve always hated my body. I like who I am, though. I only want to change the outside.

I wouldn’t be a man. I’d be a transgender person. Someone who was born, raised, and spent an entire lifetime as a female who now finds it less painful to live in a male body.

Nothing about me will change but my body.

The people who already read me as male will be closer to being right.

I want my life to be easier. I want the pain to go away.

I could lose friends. I could lose my wife.

Women who’ve known me for years will look at me differently.

They’ll tell me to “man up” where before, they expressed sympathy.

They’ll accuse me of mansplaining even though I explain things for a living.

Things I said with safety as a lesbian will suddenly seem sexist. “How lucky am I to be surrounded by all of these beautiful women?” may not be heard in quite the same way.

I won’t change but expectations will. “Would you mind taking out the trash?” they’ll ask me. “Could you carry up that box?”

Something about me has to change, though. I can’t keep doing this.

Holy shit!

Holy shit holy shit holy shit.

I’m never going back to the gym.

I’m a Freak

* This entry was posted, pulled, and revised. We all make mistakes.

It still hits me over the head sometimes when I have a moment of shock and I think, “I really am a freak.” I’ve got a slew of friends and a paid therapist who consistently tell me how normal I am but hey, they all live in California. I know better; I’m from New York.

I spent my childhood struggling to be seen as normal (read: “like everybody else”) despite feeling trapped in a body and a role I despised. I didn’t look any different from the other girls but still, everyone could see that I was a masculine person in a girl’s body, which was not okay. The boys made fun of me: “To a girl who’s really built — like a Mack truck!” My sixth grade yearbook was littered with these. Even my friends took shots at me, paying the cutest boy in class to sneak up and kiss me on the cheek one day. “Where’s my two bucks?” he demanded, almost before his lips left my face.

Incidents like these aside, I really did and do feel normal most of the time – that is, until someone points out to me that I am not. Formerly, when I identified as a butch lesbian, I had a community and a history to fall back on at such moments. I never felt alone and, once I accepted myself, I never felt odd. There were so many others like me. Now that I identify as a transgender man, I feel utterly alone. There is no comparable community. There is no history. In terms of the medical options available to me, I am a new thing on this earth.

In my last post, I responded to the new North Carolina law that requires transgender people to use the restroom associated with the gender listed on their birth certificates. Some of us look so much like the men or women we identify as that following the law creates its own set of problems. No woman wants to see my mustached face in a ladies room.

The post elicited a strong response from a friend of mine; he’s not wrong in asking me to be realistic about the way politicians think:

“In the eyes of the NC legislators, who are older straight conservatives for the most part, there is a very real fear of perverts emboldened to barge into women’s restrooms AND LOCKER ROOMS [emphasis his] unrestrained. Whether that is a realistic fear or not is neither here nor there. It exists.”

I suppose I have to accept this. No amount of reason can shake an irrational belief. If men who try to look like women are allowed into the ladies room, then men will try to look like women in order to get into the ladies room. It doesn’t matter that it makes no sense; belief rarely does. And it’s strong enough to withstand critiques against its discriminatory effects.

The human psyche makes it acceptable to hurt other humans by dehumanizing them. In the eyes of the NC legislature, I am a freak, and freaks pave the way for rapists. As my friend implicitly reminds me, that’s a fact whether I accept it or not. I don’t want to be a freak.

I don’t want to be transgender. It was hard enough coming to grips with being a lesbian; being transgender is a whole other order of weird. How messed up am I, to be so at odds with my own biology? What went wrong in my head or in my life to detach me so completely from my body? No matter what I do, I can never be a “real” man. It’s crazy to think otherwise. I need to deal with reality.

Reality’s a funny thing, though. It keeps changing. It turns out that being transgender is not the same thing as being a man. It doesn’t try to be. It occupies its own legitimate place along the spectrum of human biology and identity. Whether people understand it or not is neither here nor there. It exists.

Something happened in my brain, in the womb or early on, that created disagreement with my body. And while I laid claim to masculine style and identity a long time ago, the disappointment of a mirror has always been profound. Finally denial was more painful than acceptance. Forty-five years of self-hatred is more than enough for anyone.

If that makes me a freak, then so be it.

Which Bathroom Should I Use in North Carolina? Depends.

A friend of mine recently moved her young family to Asheville, North Carolina. After a decade of struggling alone with two kids in a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, she gave up whatever cultural advantages living there might afford them for a 2200 sq. ft. house in the woods. I don’t blame her. She and her children will undoubtedly have a better quality of life there, provided their SF values don’t collide head-on with their new NC reality.

Their move wasn’t just a leap from urban to rural, but from Democratic into Republican territory. My friend, a secular Jew originally from NYC, took comfort in Asheville’s reputation as a progressive oasis in an otherwise conservative state. Besides, the Supreme Court had already made gay marriage the law of the land, so how bad could North Carolina be? It’s the 21st century, after all.

My poor friend; she has my sympathy. I wish I could visit to offer her some emotional support, but I wouldn’t have anywhere to urinate. North Carolina has just passed a law requiring transgender people to use the public restrooms that correspond to the gender they were assigned at birth, regardless of how they identify. It’s clear that lawmakers weren’t thinking about how transgender people look, because I’d scare the crap out of everyone if I walked into a women’s restroom. And there are (need I tell you?) scores of incredibly gorgeous transwomen whom I’m sure many people don’t want too close to their husbands in the men’s room.

The practical effect of bathroom laws like this one is to divide the trans community into those of us who can and can’t “pass” as members of the gender with which we identify. If nobody can tell I’m trans, then I’m good to go, literally. No one is going to look twice at me. But if I can’t or don’t particularly want to be invisibly transgender, then I’d better start wearing adult diapers when I’m out and about in North Carolina.

What is all the bathroom panic among so-called “straight” people about? What’s wrong with their dirty little minds? I can’t help but wonder if the terrible childhood experience that made them straight in the first place is the same one that made them so afraid of restroom rape? Maybe we should think about getting rid of diaper changing stations in public bathrooms? Is that it? What on earth is the shared trauma of youth that makes these people neurotic to the point of enacting completely unjustified, blatantly discriminatory legislation?

Paranoid heterosexuals claim to be concerned that if transgender folks have legal access to the correct toilet, then straight men will disguise themselves as transwomen in order to get into the ladies room and rape women. This is championship-level convoluted reasoning: Let’s deny transgender women rights in order to keep straight men from raping straight women. Huh?

As for rape in the women’s restroom, outside of lesbian erotica, I’ve never heard of it happening. Committing a crime so publicly invites interruption and capture. Moreover, if it’s a realistic possibility then I have no idea what stops any rapist from dressing up as a woman and hitting the ladies room right now, regardless of the status of transgender rights. I don’t get the connection. The fact is that transwomen who are forced to use the men’s room as a result of misguided laws like this one will be the people who are most at risk of rape — again, by so-called “straight” men.

In refusing to protect the rights of transgender individuals, the North Carolina legislature appears to have taken a stand against something it’s genuinely afraid it can’t control: Themselves.

There’s a Man in the Bathroom!

restrooms sign

Now that I’m consistently being read as male, I’m realizing just how stressful my prior life was. As a masculine woman, so many interactions had been framed by a horrible sense of alienation. To wit:

Washing my hands in an empty airport restroom, a woman walking in exclaims, “Esto es un hombre en el baño!” “No!” I correct her, cupping my breasts. “No soy un hombre!”

Dining at a restaurant with family and the friends to whom I have just been introduced, the waiter calls me “Sir;” is it more mortifying to ignore his mistake or to point it out by correcting him?

Visiting my mother in the hospital, I oblige the woman in the other bed by moving a chair across the room. She smiles at my mom and says, “My, what a strapping young son you have!”

Heading into the women’s fitting room at Macy’s with an armload of clothing from the men’s department, the attendant shakes her head at me and points me back the way I came.

Every time this happened, I was wounded to the core. Even my wife couldn’t understand this. If I dressed in men’s clothing, wore short hair and no make-up, then why did it upset me when people thought I was a man? Because there is more than one way to be a woman, I’d explain. Because I still have a woman’s body and a woman’s face. Why can’t they see that?

I am stunned at my own lack of self-awareness. Or capacity for denial.

These strangers saw me for the man that I am. They saw him not just in my clothing and my haircut, but in everything from the way that I walk to the words that I choose. My bearing, my communication style, my naturally deep voice; all of it reads “male” and they saw it. Every social interaction threatened to reveal me to myself.

I identified as male from the moment that I understood the difference between men and women. I was disabused of this notion almost immediately upon arriving at it. Nonetheless, I persisted throughout childhood in my distaste for anything remotely identifiable as feminine. I eventually identified as a lesbian because it was the only way that I could see forward. It allowed me to fulfill my romantic and sexual attraction to women; to be decidedly masculine while housed in a female body; and to pursue a career (at the time) in a field dominated by men.

I was angry, though, because I felt an obligation to confess my birth sex to whoever got it wrong. My sense of honor and honesty compelled me to infer the presence of genitals with which I did not identify and acknowledge a gender role that I had rejected. It drew my attention to the uncomfortable incongruence between my biological sex and my gender identity. It brought a subliminal suffering to the surface.

It took me 49 years to move through this morass to the following conclusion: I don’t have to be unhappy. I’ve learned that the lifelong argument between my body and my mind has a biological foundation and a medical solution. I’ve learned that I’m not crazy. I’m not wrong inside. I’m wrong outside, and I’m fixing it.

Now I use the men’s room and – forgive the pun – it’s an incredible relief.