FTM & FTW: Well, Let’s Talk about Bathroom Stuff

by Lenny Burnham

AJT93C Washroom sign

After beginning my transition, I had a conversation with the HR rep of the corporation I work for in which she asked me, “So, your goal is to use the men’s bathroom, correct?”

The wording made me laugh. Really, is using the men’s bathroom anyone’s goal? No, it’s a terrible burden that all men share, and I want to grudgingly accept this burden because I want to be equal to other men. As a friend said the first time I mentioned it to her, “I know you’re serious about this, because I don’t know any woman who would voluntarily go into the men’s room.”

Over the past month, I haven’t actually had to deal with the problem of which public bathroom to use very much. This is a result of my deep hatred of leaving the house. I’ve been using the men’s room at the bar where I do open mics, but that’s less intimidating because a) it’s a bar, so you know people are drunkenly using whichever bathroom is closest all the time; and b) people there actually know me and know my deal. I still hadn’t gone to a gender-segregated public bathroom with a lot of strangers around — until this weekend, that is, when I saw

Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

(Don’t worry, no spoilers. I’m strictly here to talk about my pee.)

Before the show, I bought one of those ridiculously large movie theater sodas, recklessly disregarding both the price and the fact that this would definitely result in me having to use the bathroom at some point. The walk from the theater to the bathroom felt incredibly long because I spent the entire time trying to decide which door to walk through. I’ve been called “miss” and “m’am” enough over the past month to know that strangers don’t see me as male, which means someone could potentially take an issue with me being in the men’s room, and I honestly wasn’t sure how I’d deal with that. Ultimately, a couple factors went into me deciding to use the men’s room:

First off, I looked especially manly that day. Okay, not the way that Terry Crews is manly. Just… man-ish. My fashion taste usually leans towards cute, flattering clothing, but that day I was wearing an ugly, oversized Comedy Central t-shirt. I guess because I wanted people to know that I’ve given up.

Second, one of the ads before the movie was one of those ads for the concept of movies, where they throw in clips from a lot of stuff and remind people that movies are cool. Seriously, what’s the deal with those things? We’re all sold on movies, right? Especially those of us currently in the theater, about to watch a movie we paid for? Anyway, whichever blessed mad man who put together this particular ad threw in, of all things, Boys Don’t Cry. Because seeing Brandon Teena and Lana Tisdel sitting together next to a caption that says “I need acceptance” is the kind of hard punch to the gut I need on a Sunday at the movies. While that clip’s a pretty harsh reminder of the worst case scenario for if someone had a problem seeing me in the men’s room, it also made me feel like I should just be really bold about living my life the way I want to. So, I journeyed into the men’s room.

While walking, I was directly behind a couple that didn’t split up until the very last second. In addition to being an absolutely adorable testament to love, it made me feel like I was walking behind some sort of dramatization of my two options until the moment I decided to walk behind the man. When we were both in the bathroom, the guy happened to glance back and see me. He immediately said, “Sorry.”

I’m very familiar with this type of “sorry.” I deliver it about ten times a day. It wasn’t an actual apology; the word just instinctively slipped out because he felt awkward. So without him having to say anything else, I knew he’d seen me and had been surprised that I was there, and that he had, at least for a second, felt like something was off.

But then the “sorry” slipped out. It wasn’t a graceful response — just a very awkward, very human one. And I really appreciated it. Because even though he might’ve been startled and thrown off by me, he immediately realized that it really wasn’t any of his business that I was in there.

It’s annoying that every time I need to use the bathroom in public, I have to make a choice. And it’s scary knowing what could happen as a result of that choice. Between my own inhibitions and other people’s ignorance, I don’t know if I’ll always end up using the men’s room. But I do know this: one time when a trans woman was hanging out at my apartment, she used the bathroom and left the seat up. That is the level of unapologetic comfort with my trans status that I aspire to.

Lenny watches an amount of TV that has been described as “impressive” and “a problem.” You can talk to him about TV and cute boys on Twitter @lennyburnham.

Image courtesy of Huffington Post.

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