by Gwendolyn Ann Smith
I am sure I run the risk of having my “transgendered woman” membership card revoked for saying this publicly, but I walked into a men’s room recently.
I think I was okay as I was accompanied by a butch friend of mine, S. Bear Bergman. I was touring the San Francisco LGBT Center with hir, and wanted to check out a rumor – one that turned out to be most delightfully true.
There are tampon dispensers in the men’s room.
To us, this was delightful news. I would go so far as to say it was the best moment I’ve ever experienced in the little boy’s room.
Of course, I was also left wondering why such a place as an LGBT center, especially one in such a progressive location, would even bother to have traditionally-labeled rooms.
This begs the question: what would be non-traditional monikers for such things. What terms could be applied to these doors that could do a better job not only for transgendered people, but maybe for all who need a pot to pee in?
I’m not talking about “Bouys” and “Gulls,” like you might see in a nautical-themed eatery. I think we can be far more inventive than that.
The aforementioned Bear suggested a three-doored concept, namely “Stand Up, Sit Down, or Fight Fight Fight!” While I worry that this might be veering way too close to sports-bar kitsch, it certainly might work for a lot of people. I’d probably avoid the “Fight Fight Fight” door, though; sounds entirely too “rough trade” for me.
Another friend mentioned the markings in a bar in New York City: “Butch” and “Femme.” This one takes a step beyond the standard expectations of a sex-based gender. It provides some viable options, but I suspect some would still find it limiting.
I wonder if a “Christine Jorgensen” and “Lou Sullivan” pair of doors would work well, or perhaps even a “Leslie Feinberg” and “Kate Bornstein” pair. The latter could muddy some waters even further. Heck, I’m not even sure which of the latter set I’d use. Knowing me, I’d have to flip a coin before entering.
So what are my door name choices? Well, I’m a bit of a troublemaker. I’d probably want to see a pair of bathrooms marked “Hir” and “Hir.” You still have a 50% chance of hitting the “right” door if you wish, and I can just imagine some of the confused faces outside those two, as people try desperately to figure out just which “hir” they happen to be.
Maybe it would help some to see what a transperson might go through in the same circumstance.
I am sure that many people, transgendered and not, use a mens or women’s room without a care in the world, all the live long day. It’s only when one is a little too butch or a little too femme to be so clearly pigeonholed that things get tricky. Butch women and MTFs might get the boot from women’s rooms, and femme men and FTMs might face worse than just being kicked out of the men’s rooms. There are not many “little transgender rooms” scattered about the countryside; it’s not easy if you just don’t wish to fit into a limited binary.
It’s all a bit of a dilemma, just because you want to use a restroom.
That is what it’s all about, by the way. Typically, all we’re doing with a toilet is what anyone else is doing. When you have to go, you have to go. Yet it seems that those folks who have some need to ask about the proper bathroom for a transgendered person think that we’re doing some horrible unspeakable acts in there.
So what is the answer? Maybe it is as simply and potentially silly as figuring out a new label or two for the toilet pair of your choosing. “Apples” and “Oranges” might make for a tasty set of doors, or even “this” or “that.” Better yet, why not consider scrapping the monikers altogether, and just go with “bathroom.”
Just make sure to keep the tampon dispensers stocked; you never know when someone might need them.
Gwen Smith might be considered a “potty mouth” in this column. You’ll find her on the web at http://www.gwensmith.com.